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Over the years I wrote numerous stories about Tomas Regalado, Marc Sarnoff and Willie Gort traveling the world, even filing ethics complaints in response to Regalado and Sarnoff's refusal to reveal who paid for some of these trips. (HERE), (HERE), (HERE).
In early 2012, I filed my first ethics complaint over the way that folks at City Hall kept mooching and exploiting their access to free tickets to events at the Knight Center,. the Bayfront Park Amphitheater, Miami Heat games and other events including the Mayor's Ball, where Norman Braman, local billionaire who likes to buy politicians cheap, purchased several tables and where 4 of the 5 City Commissioners and their wives, including Francis Suarez and wife Gloria, ended up sitting.
NUMBER 95 - SEPTEMBER 23, 2018
FRANCIS SUAREZ CONTINUES THE TRADITION OF REFUSING TO REVEAL WHO PAYS FOR HIS OVERSEAS TRIPS, ALONG WITH THE PRICEY TICKETS HE AND HIS WIFE RECEIVE SO THEY CAN HANG OUT WITH MIAMI'S SOCIALITES
It didn't take long for Francis Suarez to reveal that he was going to follow in Tomas Regalado's footsteps when it came to traveling around the world on other people's dime, and then refusing to reveal who those people were.
Last March, Mayor Francis Suarez and Commissioner Willie Gort went to Paraguay. It was Suarez's first overseas trip since becoming mayor, and the trip was billed as a, "Commercial Mission of Entrepreneurs from the United States to Paraguay to generate ties and commercial relations between both countries."
Miami politicians have always liked to travel the globe.
My first story about their globetrotting ways was when new Commissioner Frank Carollo and his wife went to Spain in 2010, on free tickets provided by Juan Jose Hidalgo, the president of AirEuropa airlines shortly after Hildago received a Key To The City and AirEuropa Day was declared by the Mayor.
Here is a copy of Gort's March 2018 FORM 9 Gift Disclosure Report where he disclosed who had paid for his trip to Paraguay.
This prompted me to write Francis Suarez's Chief of Staff, asking him to provide me with the travel costs for the trips he'd made since becoming mayor, including the trip to Paraguay.
As my subject line reveals, it took 3 separate requests before I got a response from the Major's Chief of Staff.
The documents provided by the city for the Washington, Boston and Columbia trips indicate that these trips were paid by the city, although only the Boston trip included a copy of a Travel Request Form. These reports also don't reveal the costs for his bodyguard(s), or for other folks like the Chief of Police who went to Boston with him.
The admission that there were "no documents responsive" to the trips to Paraguay and San Francisco raise serious concerns as to who paid for these trips, as does the week long trip that he took to Israel, which although I dot not include in my initial request was taken during this same time period. (I received information today 9/24, that shows that the taxpayers paid for this trip.)
Francis Suarez didn't go to Paraguay, San Francisco or Israel on a magic carpet, and given that Willie Gort reported his Paraguay, it's reasonable to assume that Francis Suarez should have also filed a FORM 9 for that same trip since they traveled together.
The public has every right and expectation to know who pays for the trips.
WHAT FUN IS IT IF WIFEY CAN'T GO TOO
Among the reporting issues that the 2012 letter dealt with was the requirement that when the elected officials received trips or tickets that included their spouses, those free tickets and free trips also had to be reported.
Opening Day 2018,Marlins
January 2018, St Jude's Hospital
Although I thought that my complaint was reasoned and more importantly well documented, itl proved to be more than the Ethics Commission wanted to deal with, and instead of finding anyone guilty of abusing their power and office by accepting free tickets, the Ethics Commission dismissed my complaint and instead issued a "General Latter Of Instruction," to the city requiring them to address the problems associated with taking free tickets.
The city agreed to rectify the problems by introducing legislation, and in fact this effort is mentioned in the General Letter Of Instruction:
That was in 2012.
This is now 2018, and nothing has happened from then until now to "bring its practices in line with the recommendations and guidelines that we have promulgated."
In short, the City of Miami wiped its ass with the Ethic's Commission Letter Of Instruction, and to this day most elected officials and others at City Hall continue to do what they damn well please when it comes to mooching free tickets and refusing to account for who pays for the trips to foreign countries.
In late July I filed my semi-annual request for copies of the FORM 9 Gift Disclosure Reports for the Mayor and the City Commissioners from the Florida Ethics Commission, and received this response.
(NOTE: The reader should know that I purposely waited until after the July 15th deadline to file the quarterly report so that there could be no excuse that the Mayor still had an additional reporting period before he needed to reveal any of this information.)
It should be pointed out that in 2012, Francis Suarez was not just a City Commissioner, but he was also the City Commission's Chairman, with unilateral authority to control the Commission's agenda as to what was placed on that agenda for discussion and approval.
Here are some recent examples of Francis Suarez and his wife Gloria at various events having a good time on someone else's dime.
November 4, 2017, Make A Wish Foundation Gala
And so the bullshit continues,.
Trips to faraway lands paid for by anonymous persons and/or companies, and tickets to galas and parties also paid for by anonymous persons and/or companies.
The only thing different between Suarez and Regalado is that I haven't found any photos of Suarez's wife giving away Keys To The City in foreign countries.
All of this continues to occur with complete impunity because after turning their backs on demanding that the city comply with the terms of their General Letter Of Instruction that the the city agreed to implement in 2012, but never did, the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission decided that the best way to deal with this problem was to ignore it, which is covered in the rule book for the Family and Friends Plans as, "Tickets? What tickets? We don't care about no stink'en tickets."
It's Miami, Bitches!
NUMBER 96 - SEPTEMBER 24, 2018
THE FORUMLA 1 RACE SCHEDULED TO TAKE PLACE ON BISCAYNE BOULEVARD IN 2019 HAS BEEN PUT ON HOLD, AND IT WILL BE PERMENANT IF DOWNTOWN RESIDENTS HAVE THEIR SAY
The proposed contract for the Formula 1 race has been "indefinitely deferred," according to the agenda of the September 27th City Ciommission meeting.
Plans for the Fan Fest and demonstration race will still go on between Cotober 17th and 21st, but the Crespogram has been told that there have not been any discussions between the city and the race promoters for a while now, and at the very least this lack of discussion made it all but impossible to consider going forward with the first race taking part in 2019.
The folks who live in the condos across from Bayfront Park have been adamant that the race should not take place on Biscayne Boulevard and it seems that their efforts, along with a threatened lawsuit have caused the city to reconsider hosting this race.
This issue is not over, but for now, it looks like the residents have finally convinced city hall that they can no longer be ignored.