It’s been a bad couple of weeks for City of Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo, but it looks like it’s going to be a great year for his lawyers.
Steven Miro, once a close ally and employee of Loco Joe’s, filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination. Miro, it seems is a non-anonymous whistleblower. During his tenure with Carollo, he alleges he saw the Commissioner use City of Miami funds to help former Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla in his failed 2018 County Commission election bid. Miro goes so far in the lawsuit to describe Joe’s actions as “a felony”.
Miro specifically alleged: “Joe Carollo, a Miami City Commissioner with a history of public fraud and outlandish behavior, was engaged in a felony. He used City of Miami funds and resources to benefit the campaign of Alex Diaz de la Portilla, a then-candidate for the Miami-Dade County Commission. [Miro] brought his knowledge of the public fraud to the attention of the City of Miami. After bringing it to the attention of the City, Miro learned that Joe Carollo was (and remains) the subject of one or more criminal investigations for public corruption. Starting on approximately May 9, 2018, Miro cooperated as a witness for the government while he remained employed by the City.”
There are allegations that Carollo’s staff was ordered to purge their email accounts of anything mentioning the paella fiestas. (If true, the cover-up may be worse than the crime. Joe can be so Nixonian sometimes. Didn’t he learn that cover-ups, especially in an age of digital messaging and backups don’t always work as planned?)
The criminal investigations that Miro referenced may be the rumored inquiry being conducted by State Attorney Kathy Fernandez Rundle.
The incident that started all of this was a series of paella parties that Joe threw for Alex at events aimed at seniors in the district. It seems that not only the paella rice was yellow. Joe hasn’t publicly comment on the scandal.
Joe will no doubt bring in his consigliere, attorney Benedict Kuehne, to defend him, all on the public dime. Joe or the City are going to need a lot of money to pay Ben’s hourly rate.
And it looks like Joe has a scheme that will give him a slush fund to work with.
There is a second lawsuit that has been filed against Joe. It seems that he was employed as a consultant to a group that wants to put a giant Ferris wheel next to the 1,000 foot toenail-clipper-observation-
But the Ferris wheel matter, which the developers insist be called an “observation wheel” came up before the City Commission. Rather than recuse himself from the discussion and the vote, Joe weighed in. He apparently used the inside information that he got as a consultant to the disadvantage of the developer, pressuring them for a bigger cut of the reventues.
Had Carollo been a lawyer, he’d be facing disbarment for violating a client confidence and breaching ethical standards. Since no one knows what Joe does when he’s not on the Commission dais, it’s hard to think of what professional ethical board to go to. Rumor has it that a complaint has been filed against the Commissioner with the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and the Public Trust.
However, Joe isn’t anti-Ferris wheel entirely. Word is that he’d be in favor moving it slightly to the south, out of Bayside and into Bayfront Park. This is where the slush fund gets even slushier.
Bayfront Park is a 32-acre park which is under the control of the Bayfront Park Management Trust. The Trust is governed by a nine-member Board of Trustees that it chaired by — wait for it — Revoltin’ Joe Carollo. The Trust maintains parking and other revenue sources in the area to fund the park operations.
Moving the observation wheel into Bayfront Park would give Carollo, rather than the City, control over the funds that the attraction would generate. With a new source of revenue, Joe would doubtlessly host senior citizen paella parties to benefit himself and his political friends all year round.
I know there are a lot of “ifs” in this story. Like if Miro’s lawsuit is successful or if the Commission on Ethics can tear itself away from deciding whether County employees making poverty wages can move into subsidized housing, or if the State Attorney finally finds a public corruption case she wants to actively pursue. The list goes on and on.
My favorite is if Joe is successful in dragging the Ferris wheel a few hundred feet into Bayfront Park, can we put him on it, stop it when he gets to the top and leave him there?
That would be an improvement to Bayside, Bayfront, the City of Miami, and South Florida that we could all get behind.