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Friday, December 2, 2016

It’s a new sleazeball record, even for South Florida: three different mayors busted on corruption charges in 22 days.

That’s almost a mayor a week in handcuffs. No other county in the nation can match the pace of corruption being set by Miami-Dade.

Last Wednesday it was Homestead mayor Steve Bateman, currently running for re-election, who got pinched on two felony counts of unlawful compensation and assorted violations of the county’s ethics code.

(I’m not joking. There really is an ethics code.)

Bateman was in the shower when cops came knocking. Said his attorney: “He is shocked by having been arrested with no advance notice.”

Like what, an engraved invitation? The mayor’s antics have kept him in the news for years, and his sketchy business dealings have been well chronicled by The Miami Herald and WFOR-CBS 4.

Bateman is charged with serving as a secret paid “consultant” to a company called Community Health of South Florida, which runs nonprofit health clinics. CHI has a long-pending project in Homestead, and the mayor allegedly offered to “make the wheels turn faster,” one employee said.

He got himself a tasty one-year contract for $120,000. Prosecutors say he collected less than half the amount before his arrest.

Here’s the heartwarming part. CHI delivers medical services to the poor, but Bateman allegedly had no qualms about overbilling. He spent one hour with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his staff, then he invoiced CHI for eight hours.

The confluence of greed and stupidity is a recurring theme in bribery cases, but what distinguishes our wayward politicians is a special brand of blithe and arrogant bumbling.

At least Bateman was aiming for a six-figure payoff, according to the state attorney’s office. Usually local pols can be bought much cheaper.

Last March, Sweetwater mayor Manuel Marono and lobbyist Jorge Forte allegedly split a $10,000 cash bribe at a restaurant. The money was tucked in a notebook offered by two FBI agents posing as Chicago businessmen.