Former colleagues say Miami Beach mayor candidate made unwanted advances

In his run for Miami Beach mayor, Steven Meiner has pitched himself to voters as a family man who has put a premium on ethics and respect for his political opponents. That image, along with a tough-on-crime platform, helped the city commissioner earn the most votes among four mayoral candidates last week and set up a Nov. 21 runoff between Meiner and former commissioner Michael Gongora.

But at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, where Meiner has been an enforcement attorney in the Miami office since 2007, three former female colleagues told the Miami Herald that Meiner made unwanted advances toward them, including one who reported his alleged conduct to her supervisors and triggered an internal review in 2016.

For each of the three women, the Herald spoke with someone they confided in at the time to corroborate their accounts, including fellow SEC employees.

In the 2016 incident, an SEC attorney reported to her superiors that Meiner told her while in her office that he wanted to get a second apartment to carry on an affair with her, according to the attorney and documents reviewed by the Herald. The attorney immediately told her supervisor, who referred the matter to the SEC’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), according to a memo from the supervisor.

A few years earlier, Meiner allegedly tried to kiss a college-age SEC intern when they went out for dinner after work, according to Herald interviews with the former intern and a colleague she told about the incident the next day.

Another former intern told the Herald that, while she was at the SEC during law school about a decade ago, Meiner frequently texted her and made comments she saw as inappropriate. The messages became more frequent and suggestive after her internship concluded, she said, prompting both her and her boyfriend to text Meiner to tell him to stop.

READ MORE: It’s Gongora vs. Meiner in a runoff for Miami Beach mayor. What you need to know

The women who accused Meiner of inappropriate behavior each requested anonymity to speak about their experiences, citing a fear of retribution. The Herald was first made aware of the allegations through an anonymous tip.

Asked about the alleged incidents, Meiner told the Herald earlier this week he was “not familiar” with them. He said he is loyal to his wife and was “shocked” to hear about the claims of inappropriate workplace behavior.

On Friday, Meiner said in a statement that the allegations are “absolutely untrue and offensive.”

“In 16 years with the United States government, I’ve only received exemplary reviews and never received a single admonishment or reprimand of any kind,” Meiner said. “I have never been the object of a formal complaint.”

The Herald has requested Meiner’s personnel file from the SEC.

Meiner, who is Jewish, said the claims about his conduct were “likely motivated by anti-Israel and antisemitic views.” He said that, about 12 years ago, an SEC colleague “confronted me about Israel” and made “inflammatory statements” referring to Israelis as “colonizers” and expressing support for Hamas.

After the confrontation, “this individual and a few others continued to be antagonistic, spreading untrue [and] sometimes insulting or unflattering rumors about me in the office,” Meiner said. He said he reported this to upper management.

Meiner on Friday also shared a statement of support from his wife, Shanyn.

“He is my loving and supportive husband, the best dad to our children, and a remarkable son and son-in-law,” she said.

After the alleged 2016 incident, records show the woman — an attorney who was junior to Meiner but not supervised by him — reported what happened to her supervisors.

It wasn’t clear how the matter was resolved, but the woman said she wasn’t aware of Meiner facing discipline.

The Herald shared with Meiner a copy of an email the woman sent to her bosses and an EEO attorney charged with looking into the incident. In the email, the woman said the EEO attorney had relayed details to her about Meiner’s “side of the story” and planned to speak with him again.

“As I think you all know, this has been a very upsetting experience for me,” the woman wrote. “I love my job and I look forward to returning to it when I am comfortable and can focus on work. Right now, because of what Steve did, I am unable to do that.”

Meiner did not respond to a request for comment on that email.

An SEC spokesperson declined to comment on Meiner’s alleged conduct, saying the agency does not comment on personnel matters.

Alleged incidents with interns

In 2012, a college intern at the SEC told at least one colleague that Meiner had tried to kiss her.

The former intern told the Herald last week that Meiner invited her to go to dinner at a bar one night after work in Brickell. Meiner, who was married at the time, made comments during the dinner that were blunt about his attraction to her, the former intern said. At one point, she said, Meiner asked to kiss her and leaned toward her but she moved away.

Meiner then asked to kiss her again as they were leaving, she said, and she again made it clear she wasn’t interested.

“It caught me off guard. I was immediately stopping it,” she said. “I remember saying, ‘You’re married.’”

A colleague at the time told the Herald in an interview this week that the intern shared what had happened the next day. The colleague recalled the intern saying she was “repulsed and kind of pushed [Meiner] back” when he tried to kiss her.

The colleague said the intern chose not to formally report the incident.

The second former SEC intern told the Herald that while she was in law school and after she left the SEC, Meiner regularly asked her out for drinks and dinner and told her in text messages that she was “beautiful and smart.”

“I had to send him several very direct texts reminding him he had a wife and kids and reminding him I was in a very serious relationship,” she said.

The woman’s then-boyfriend told the Herald he became so frustrated with Meiner’s advances that he texted Meiner himself to tell him to stop.

“It was the sheer persistence that was really inappropriate for me,” the woman said. “It was me politely declining way too many times.”

The woman said Meiner helped oversee the legal intern program at the time and had been involved in hiring her.

Report of sexual harassment

The attorney who made the 2016 complaint, who was 30 years old at the time, memorialized what she said happened in her office between her and Meiner, then 44, in an email to herself later that same afternoon that was reviewed by the Herald.

In the memo dated Feb. 24, 2016, the woman wrote that, after saying he wanted to speak with her about a case they were working on, Meiner shifted the conversation. He told her he wanted to get a second apartment near the SEC office in Miami, “but that he is waiting until he has someone to take there,” she wrote.

Meiner then said he “probably shouldn’t say what he was about to say,” but that “he wants me to be the reason he pulls the trigger and gets the apartment,” says the woman’s memo.

“I immediately told him no and he said he thought I would say that. I told him he needed to leave my office and I was getting back to work,” the woman wrote. “He lingered in my office and said that he wanted me to know that I am one of his closest friends. I ignored him.”

No one else witnessed the incident, the woman said. After Meiner left, the woman wrote that she was “shaking” and texted a friend to share what happened.

“Steve just told me that he was hoping I would give him a reason to pull the trigger on getting the second apartment. That I would be the reason he needs it,” the woman wrote in a message reviewed by the Herald. “I kicked him out of my office and I’m trying not to walk out of work.”

The woman said that, leading up to the interaction, Meiner would frequently talk to her in the office and ask her to go for walks. The interactions were platonic, she said, as she knew Meiner was married and Meiner knew she had a boyfriend. But she said Meiner was persistent and she got the sense that he was hitting on her.

A former colleague told the Herald the woman talked to her at the time about her interactions with Meiner leading up to the February 2016 incident.

“She confided in me that he was bothering her and coming by her office very often,” said the former colleague, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Two months after the incident, the woman requested to move to a part-time schedule, saying in an email to her bosses that she was “not entirely comfortable in the workplace and [needed] additional time for myself.” The Herald reviewed a copy of the email.

In an April 2016 SEC memo reviewed by the Herald, her supervisor acknowledged she had made the request in part because, “due to your reported incident of sexual harassment, you continue to not be entirely comfortable in the workplace.”

The woman’s request for a part-time schedule was granted, but for three months instead of the full year she had sought.

Two days later, she resigned from the SEC. She told the Herald she has not practiced law since.

“It changed the course of my life,” she said.