Grantee probes Florida guardianship program, sparking official investigation and an immediate halt in activity

Reporters Daniel Rivero and Joshua Ceballos, reporting for public radio station WLRN with support from the Fund, probed the publicly funded Guardianship Program in Dade County, Florida, which is supposed to raise funds through property sales to help incapacitated owners who lack other support. The reporters found that two politically connected real estate firms were often the biggest beneficiaries. Following a months-long review of hundreds of pages of probate court records, real estate sales and other public documents, the reporters found that the Guardianship Program has been selling many homes to the same realty company, Express Homes, owned by the husband of Victoria Méndez, the Miami City Attorney. A subsequent story found that another company that made several transactions under the program, Gallego Homes, is owned by Méndez’s mother. After the report aired, two Miami-Dade County Commissioners and the mayor called for an investigation. The Miami-Dade Inspector General’s office confirmed that a probe is underway. The county has reached an agreement with the Guardianship Program to temporarily halt all real estate sales until the investigation is completed.