School Board member says he sleeps in Pinecrest, but he owns a Kendall home outside district

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Miami Herald | by Caroline Ghisolfi | July 29, 2020

Veteran Miami-Dade school board member Lawrence Feldman cited “family reasons” when he announced he would not be seeking a fourth term last July.

But some charge that Feldman, 70, stepped down because an old lie that could result in felony charges and a fine caught up to him.

Recent evidence suggests that Feldman — a longtime board member for District 9 and four-year vice chair of the Miami-Dade County School Board – has been living outside of the district over his last three terms. The district goes from the Dadeland Mall area, south through Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay and down to Homestead and Florida City.

Veteran Miami-Dade school board member Lawrence Feldman cited “family reasons” when he announced he would not be seeking a fourth term last July.

But some charge that Feldman, 70, stepped down because an old lie that could result in felony charges and a fine caught up to him.

Recent evidence suggests that Feldman — a longtime board member for District 9 and four-year vice chair of the Miami-Dade County School Board – has been living outside of the district over his last three terms. The district goes from the Dadeland Mall area, south through Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay and down to Homestead and Florida City.

The board member was at the West Kendall property Thursday doing yard work when the Herald requested a comment.

“Since 2008, when I was elected, I’ve been a lawful resident of Pinecrest. What I do in my day is not of your concern. I sleep in Pinecrest,” he said.

Residency requirements for school board members were established in 1982, when Florida’s Division of Elections determined that an elected member “must legally reside within a school residence area, if elected, throughout his or her term of office,” not just on Election Day.

Submitting false information in connection to voting or an election can result in a third-degree felony charge, punishable with a fine of up to $5,000 and 5 years in prison, according to the Florida Election Code.

ISSUE FIRST RAISED BY MIAMI POLITICAL BLOGGER

Suspicions that the board member has been living outside of his district were first raised by former Miami Herald reporter Elaine de Valle, aka “Ladra,” at Political Cortadito in 2016 and again this July, when she suggested that Feldman abandoned the race “because someone threatened to expose this very easily confirmable fact.”

De Valle charged that Feldman registered for the race in District 9 in fear that he would not beat the competition in District 7, where Republican State Rep. Carlos Curbelo took the seatin 2010 and was replaced in 2015 by Navarro.

Curbelo ran for Congress in 2014 and won, representing Florida’s 26th Congressional District until he was defeated by Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in 2018.

THE RACE FOR DISTRICT 9

District 9 School Board Candidate Nancy Lawther, whomFeldman endorsed last October as his successor, came to his defense in a Facebook post, where she called Political Cortadito’s article a “political smear.”

“This uncalled for attack is unfortunate at a time when some families must wait in food bank lines and many fear for their children’s return to school,” she said.

Lawther did not address Feldman’s residential history.

Lawther is running against four other candidates to replace Feldman: 30-year Pre-K to post-secondary educator Shelly Fano; Miami Killian Senior High Assistant Principal Justin Koren; former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Dennis Moss; and businesswoman Luisa Santos.

FELDMAN WOULD NOT BE THE FIRST TO MISREPRESENT AN ADDRESS

Feldman would not be the first Miami politician to provide a false residential address.

In 2011, State House Republican Sen. Frank Artiles was forced to admit he didn’t live in his Miami-Dade district. In 2017, Artiles, then a state senator, resigned over a racial slur scandal.

The same year, former Miami State Rep. DaisyBaez,a Democrat, resigned from office after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor perjury charge for listing a friend’s address on a voter registration form, the Herald reported.

Baez’s plea deal included serving one year of probation, paying a $1,000 fine and taking an ethics course.

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District 9 School Board Member Lawrence Feldman, 70, doing yard work at a home he and his wife own in West Kendall on Thursday, July 16, 2020. Feldman represents District 9 and West Kendall is not part of that district. Feldman’s voter registration record lists his address as a 400-square-foot studio at the Monterey Gardens of Pinecrest. CAROLINE GHISOLFI