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NUMBER 24 - FEBRUARY 19, 2019
IN THE HISTORY OF MIAMI, JOE CAROLLO HAS BEEN AT THE CENTER OF MORE THAN HIS SHARE OF SHIT SHOWS - WHAT HAPPENED AT THE LAST COMMISSION MEETING HOWEVER, SHOULD MAKE IT CLEAR THAT HIS VINDICTIVE BULLYING HAS BECOME A DANGER TO THE CITY, IT'S BUSINESS OWNERS AND RESIDENTS AND TO THE FRAGILE FABRIC OF DEMOCRACY THAT KEEPS MIAMI FROM SPINNING COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL
The one thing that makes Joe Carollo so dangerous is not that he's a bat-shit crazy, raving, vindictive paranoid who sees and lashes out at perceived enemies at every turn, but that the basis for a lot of his demagogy and self-serving claims about corruption by the Mayor, the City Manager and other, as well as the claims that some city employees are engaged in various forms of misbehavior, including possible kick-backs and bribes is founded on elements of truth which he then uses as a foundation to shape and mold his often twisted and nonsensical arguments as a way to create ammunition for his personal vendettas.
The Planning Department - a department that Carollo left out of his recent rants - along with the Zoning, Building and Code Enforcement Departments have been, and continue to be places where questionable and sometimes inexplicable decision-making occurs with a frequency that cannot be ignored or dismissed by a claim that, "Shit just happens."
The recent removal of former Zoning Director Devin Cejas was long overdue, and indicative of the failure of the Suarez administration to act in a timely manner when confronted with accusations that should not have been ignored for as long as they were.
I have been writing about the City of Miami for 10 years, and starting back with the bricks of free tickets that accompanied the permit applications for the big events that used to set up in what is now Museum Park back in the day, or the hundreds of tickets that a runner from the Miami City Manager's office used to go and collect every year from the county when the tennis tournament was held in Key Biscayne, and were then doled out to the Mayor and City Commissioners so they could give them to their friends and campaign donors, as well as the tickets for events at the Knight Center that Tomas Regalado's aide used to solicit on an almost weekly basis, along with the VIP tickets that were, and no doubt still are being given to politicians and top city officials by the folks running the ULTRA Music Festival, were looked upon by some city employees as just part of their benefits package, like health insurance and use of a city car.
In truth, free tickets were the lowest of the low hanging fruit on a tree that offered better and more valuable corruptible fruit as you climbed it, until at the top, if you became an elected official you also became part of the "deal flow" that included ubiquitous donations of $5,000, $10,000, $20,000, $25,000 and $50,000, not just to your campaign accounts, but to PAC's, and private foundations set up to launder all the money that deep pocket donors were willing to give in order to get what they wanted.
All of this underscored the pervasive and corrupting influence of money that over time has turned Miami into a city known as a place where, "Money talks and bullshit walks.
Even though Miami continues to be at the top of every list that chronicles income inequality and its impact, the city also continues to be awash with money that is used to buy political influence, and the politicians on the receiving end have shown little if any restraint in either willingly taking all the money offered, or delivering on the expected Quid Pro Quos, often at the expense and cost to the taxpayers.
I have repeatedly asked over the years why no one would ever step up to the plate to join me in asking how local politicians managed to collect so much money for their campaigns without there being some question of these politicians being bought and paid for, such as Francis Suarez who raised $2,602,700.80 in his run for Mayor in 2017 against 3 candidates who collectively collected and spent $1000, and then turned around a year later and received and spend another $3,230,634.66 in an unsuccessful campaign to become the Strong Mayor of Miami,.
Who gave him all this money, and what Quid Pro Quo did these people expect in return from a part-time ceremonial mayor? It certainly wasn't because any of these deep pocket donors were beating on the doors of City Hall demanding good governance!
And lest you forget, Francis Suarez has yet to account for how he managed to put a $309,000 down payment on a $1,75 million dollar house when his cash liquidity - bank and savings account - came to $238,545 at the time of the down payment.
Given all the shit I've given him about this, you would think that if there wasn't anything to hide, he would have months ago come out and said where the $309,000 came from, and then told me to stick my claims up my ass.
He hasn't, and I suspect that he won't, because he can't without revealing at the very least that behind that $309,000 down payment is some kind deal that the average citizen in Miami could never get.
So make no mistake, as crazy, vindictive, ruthless and self-serving as Joe Carollo might be, when he starts ranting that there are elected officials and city employees who are at best ignoring the law, or worse, engaging in chicanery and taking bribes, he is not necessarily wrong, but among the questions that need to be asked, how much of what Carollo accuses others of doing, does he also do himself, and how much of what he railes about is actually true, and how much of it is a mixture of bits and pieces of factual information ladled into a pot that includes the lies, misstatements and vindictive accusations that Carollo has always traded in as a way to get even with his enemies?
The other question that folks should think about is, how many business people are going to look at the shit show that took place at City Hall last week and come away deciding that Miami is not a safe place to operate a business, either because of the difficulties created by an incompetent and inefficient bureaucracy, or because if you manage to piss off Joe Carollo you too could become a target for his vindictive craziness.
THE BUSINESS OF RUNNING A BUSINESS IN MIAMI
If you spend any amount of time talking to business owners in the City of Miami, you'll soon realize that putting the questions of corruption to the side, the city is so ineptly and incompetently run that in order to get anything done you pretty much have to constantly engage in cutting corners when dealing with the city in order to get on with the business of running your business.
Permit applications that should take hours or days, end up taking months, and even then, if you try and follow all the steps and do things exactly by the book, the additional costs and time - costs that often include having to hire private permit expeditors - end up as justifications for just saying, 'Fuck it, I got to do what I got to do in order to stay in business.'
Do these problems justify the choices that lead a significant of business owners to feel they are forced to bend or break the rules in order to get from point A to point B?
You got to assume that this is the case not only from the constant stream of code enforcement violations that are recorded, but also how many of the people end up doing what they do because there are few people who they can trust or turn to for help?
Local government runs on the fake promise that when incompetence and/or corruption is uncovered, a change at the top is often the only thing needed to rectify the problem. But that is seldom, if ever true.
In a city like Miami where incompetence and corruption has been baked in by several decades of ordinances written and/or rewritten in ways designed to justify the unjustifiable, a simple change at the top of a department is often like trying to stop the bleeding caused by a machete by putting on a bandade.
More often than not, the problems go beyond personnel and are ingrained into the very fabric of a department through policies and procedures long in the making.
It's hard for most people who don't have the time, energy or desire to treat the goings on at Miami City Hall like they would the various plot twists of TV shows like the Game Of Thrones, or to come to grips with or even care about all the whys and wherefores that led to the problems at City Hall to begin with.
This doesn't mean that people are necessarily stupid or uncaring, but at the end of long hard day, often involving two jobs, and the daily cares and concerns of family, many people will settle for anybody who shows up riding a horse and promising to fight on their behalf, even if the horse leaves piles of shit on the street, and the horseman turns out to be a charlatan.
That's why Carollo will always have more support than a lot of people realize or are willing to acknowledge, because he's seen as a guy on a horse, and no matter how crazy, vindictive, ignorant or self-serving his crusades are, he's skilled at the theatrics of making himself look like a savior, and unfortunately that's more than enough for many of Miami's citizens who came from countries and cultures conditioned to keep turning to look for the man on a horse as a savior, until he isn't, and then starting to look for a new man on a horse.
THE CAROLLO RESOLUTION AND WHAT IT REVEALS ABOUT CAROLLO AND THE FDLE
Carollo has pulled a lot of stunts over the years, and his latest attempt to get his fellow Commissioners to vote on a pocket resolution asking the Governor and/or the Director of the FDLE to seek and/or assign a State-Wide Prosecutor from a State-Wide Grand Jury to investigate the city is one of the more devious stunts that he has ever tried to pull off.
To appreciate just how egregious the shut down of this investigation was, one of the other things that the FDLE managed to uncover before they were ordered to shutdown the case was that Gort's campaign accountant was alleged to have been cooking the campaign books to hide donations.
Here is a portion of another FDLE Investigative report from that case where that was spelled out by an employee working for Gort's accountant.
On the one hand it's hard not to support a call for a Grand Jury to investigate the City of Miami, because just on principle, the city could stand a couple Grand Jury investigations into a lot more than just the Building, Zoning and Code Enforcement Departments, including the Solid Waste Department, a department where employees keep calling me asking for help with allegations of female employees who are screwing managers to get out of actually working; where at least one employee is an active longshoreman who spends as much time working on the docks as he does at Solid Waste, and where other employees are unfairly being provided opportunities for overtime.
Are all of these allegations true? I don't know, but I do know there is no place for me to take these complaints to because I don't trust City Manager Colonel Klink to do anything other than go there and take a couple selfies, and I don't trust the Internal Affairs of the Police Department because I've written too many stories about the nasty way that they have covered up crimes by cops in the past, and I definitely don't trust the State Attorney's office because Katherine-Fernandez- Rundle is as responsible, if not more so for the sorry state of public corruption in this county with her Family and Friends Protection Plan.
If I don't have anyone I feel comfortable taking a complaint to, how do you think an average citizens who hasn't a clue about how the City of Miami really operates feels about going to authorities to report public corruption?
Some of you might have even wondered why a request for an investigation by a Grand Jury would be directed at the Governor and the FDLE and not Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle?
That's simple, when it comes to investigating or prosecuting the large cities in the county run by powerful Cuban politicians the FDLE has decided that Fernandez-Rundle's Office is the last place they want to take their case to.
I'm saying that based on first hand knowledge from a case that was opened by the FDLE as a result of one of my stories in 2017.
Before I reveal some of the information about that case however, there are at least three other cases that I've written about where a decision not to prosecute was made by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office that contributed to the FDLE's decision not to trust or rely on that office when a powerful a Cuban politician was involved.
WHY THE FDLE CAME TO DISTRUST THE MIAMI-DADE STATE ATTORNEY
The first of these was the the campaign finance case against Tomas and Raquel Regalado in 2011/2012, related to Regalado's first run for mayor where Katherine Fernandez-Rundle fobbed off an investigation into questionable and illegal campaign finance violations to the Ethics Commission that resulted in her office willfully allowing the statute of limitations to run out on any possible criminal prosecution. (You can read my story that includes the FDLE Reports HERE.)
The second case involved David Rivera, who for those who don't remember was a Congressman, and BFF of current US Senator Marco Rubio back when they were in the Florida Legislature together, and who was accused of sundry crimes that many expected him to be charged and arrested for by the Miami-Dade State Attorney in 2012.
Instead of the expected arrest, the case was summarily closed by Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, which really pissed off the FDLE because they had spent the better part of 2 years doing the bulk of the investigation, which resulted in several draft versions of an Affidavit In Support Of An Arrest Warrant, that was to be used to get the arrest warrant.
The draft affidavits that are for the first time being made public can be seen HERE. My 2012 story that includes the 52 Count Draft Indictment, and a photo of Rundle and Rivera praying together in a church after the investigation had been opened can be seen HERE.
Two years after that case, Fernandez-Rundle's office, after another lengthy investigation by the FDLE into Miami City Commissioner Willie Gort's receiving $18,000 of free bus bench advertising, shut down the investigation days after FDLE Special Agent Jeff Pomerantz requested access to, "Gort's computer and emails."
Why are these cases important to what happened at City Hall last week?
Because one of he people who provided information that supported the allegations in my July 2017 story alleging that then Mayor Tomas Regalado and his "wife" were living rent free in a luxury condo building owned by the Milton brothers was Joe Carollo, and after the FDLE realized that I had written a story with potential criminal implications, they felt that the only way to protect it from being trashed by Fernandez-Rundle's office was to take it to a State-Wide Prosecutor.
I'm not at liberty to discuss many details of the investigation other than to say that subpoenas were issued resulting in bank records and documents being obtained.
I don't know what has happened to the case, because after I wrote my story, COPS PROTECTING COPS, in January of 2018 alleging the whitewash of the 11 revolvers that went missing from the Miami Police Department's Property Room by the FDLE, and telling the Assistant Legal Counsel to go fuck herself over the struggle that I had in getting the documents and audio tapes that were the basis of my story, I became a persona non grata to the agency.
The most amazing thing that happened as a result of Joe Carollo's involvement in this case was that after he provided the FDLE with his information he turned around and starting hitting up the Milton family for campaign donations.
Getting members of the Milton family to give him $6000 after providing the FDLE with information that he hoped would help get their brothers/uncles indicted was a new level of political fuckery for me.
This political fuckery was compounded when in December of 2018, Carollo received $15,000 from 3 close associates and/or employees of the Milton brothers.
The question today is what prompted these folks to give Carollo $15,000 in December? Could it have something to do with a pending zoning issue due to come before the Commission sometime soon?
Carollo has a history of strong-arming folks who needs something from the city to cough up money, and he is also known to get an attitude if they don't hive him the amounts he tells them he wants, so anytime you see people giving multiple thousands of dollars to Carollo, you can bet a dollar to a donut that it isn't because they think they're supporting good governance.
IF CAROLLO REALLY HAD EVIDENCE OF WRONG DOING ON BILL FULLER OR ANYONE ELSE IT WOULD HAVE ALREADY BEEN PRESENTED TO A STATE-WIDE PROSECUTOR
How does all of this relate to Carollo's request for a State-Wide Prosecutor being appointed?
As I said, in 2017, my story about Regalado and the luxury apartment prompted a case being opened against him, and when it was, it was through the State-Wide Prosecutor's Office.
Sometime during his campaign in 2017, Carollo started trying to collect information on Bill Fuller and his partners that he could take to the FDLE for them to open a case.
I know this not only because he told me that's what he was up to at the time, but because he told countless other people the same thing. In fact he was so frantic to get hard evidence that that's why he started hanging out at the MRC Building trying to get various people to tell him anything they knew about Fuller's activities.
If he had been successful in collecting incriminating information, then a State-Wide prosecutor would have already been looking into Fuller's activities and those of others at City Hall.
My bet is that Carollo didn't actually find any real criminal activity on Fuller's part, and that as a last gasp effort the shit show he put on at City Hall last week was done to try and get his fellow commissioners to ask that a State-Wide Prosecutor be appointed not because he actually believes that they would find anything either, but because by initiating a request for a Grand Jury investigation supported by his fellow commissioners this would give him the legitimacy he needs to allow him to show up on AmericaTeve 41 and the Cuban radio shows that still allow him on to keep repeating and recycling the charges he's made against Fuller, and especially to try and use the existence of a Grand Jury as a defense against Fuller's lawsuit.
Unfortunately, while Carollo failed in getting his fellow commissioners to go along with the Grand Jury Request, he got them to placate him with the creation of a Task Force, which you can bet will turn out to be another shit show, because you can expect that Carollo and several other Commissioners will go out of their way to appoint their own guided missle representatives.
To understand just how crazy this Task Force could become, consider that Commissioner Keon Hardemon went so far during the Commission meeting as to tell Carollo that he could appoint Hardemon's representative.
How's that for an abnegation of responsibility by a City Commissioner? One, who incidently, now wants to become a county commisisoner.
Carollo is as devious and conniving as anyone that you'll find in the pages of a novel, only he's a real person, and he's absolutely batshit crazy. The only way to deal with him, is the way you have to deal with all bullies. You cut him no slack. You don't give him the benefit of a doubt, and if he wants to fight, you give him the fight of his life.
The things you cannot do is treat him as if he's a rational person, or show weakness.
It's Miami. Bitches!