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”.

Grant Miller

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-deck being built at Bayside. They paid him $125,000 for his “expertise”. When he got elected, he allegedly quit.

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.

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  1. Trash like Joe should be placed in the dumpster. You’re points are clean and precise! Thank you for making my morning more enjoyable. I love your composition.

  2. If the allegations are true, which it appears so from the reporter’s sources, Joe is perpetuating in South Florida similar corruption and worse than what exist in Washington DC. It’s amazing, even while exposed he operates unchecked and up to this point with no accountability. I encourage the reporter to keep exposing his misdeeds and in time the long arm of the law will bring him to justice,

  3. The not so subtle editorial critique of the Ethics Commission included in a clause that was also critical of local prosecutors, is noted. Perhaps you might want to look at the Ethics Commission’s work from a different perspective.
    Last month, the Board of County Commissioners considered a 70-million-dollar purchase of fire rescue helicopters. The process to purchase the helicopters, that is supposed to be sanitized, largely in the sunshine, and free from undisclosed lobbying, began in late 2014. By all measures, the process has not been pretty to watch. Nevertheless, the Ethics Commission’s involvement with the procurement is a good example to hold up to those that are at times dismissive of the impact that the Commission on Ethics has on local governance.
    The Ethics Commission began an investigation of the helicopter purchase in late 2016. The inquiry focused on unregistered lobbying by one of the helicopter vendor employees in violation of the County Ethics Code; anyone lobbying the County has to register, make certain disclosures, and receive ethics, public procurement, public meeting, and public records training.
    The Ethics Commission started the investigation, referred it for criminal review, interviewed multiple witnesses, and reviewed boxes of documents. Our investigation revealed multiple violations of the Ethics Code’s lobbyist and cone of silence provisions. Ultimately, we were able to identify repeated contacts between the unregistered helicopter vendor employee and senior County fire rescue personnel. The contacts were face to face over meals, over the phone, locally and on out of town trips. All this is contained in a final investigative report and cover legal memorandum that has been publicly reported on.
    As a result of our inquiry, the unregistered helicopter vendor employee lobbying the county was charged with ethics violations, found to have violated the Ethics Code, and fined several thousand dollars. However, that is only small part of what occurred as a result of the Ethics Commission’s shining a light into the crevices of a process involving tens of millions of dollars of public funds that is supposed to be sanitized and in the sunshine.
    While we do not have the authority to fire an employee of a private firm, the vendor we charged and fined was terminated from his employment with the helicopter vendor. His supervisor was also administratively sanctioned. We do not have the authority to compel the Mayor or the Commission to abandon a multi-year process to buy 70-million-dollars’ worth of fire rescue helicopters, but the County did abandon two prior processes and has started what will be, we all hope, a third and final untainted procurement process. We don’t have the authority to discipline or terminate a County employee, but the Mayor has publicly committed to a disciplinary review into the behavior of senior fire rescue officials, and at his direction, command staff officers have been reviewing our files in support of this process.
    We will continue to shine a light into the crevices of local governance, investigate and sanction those who violate the Ethics Code, and provide objective factual reports to elected official, policy makers, private parties and the public who will then be able to act within their own authority to amplify the impact of our work.
    A different perspective perhaps, but a very defendable one.
    Jose Arrojo, Executive Director, Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust


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