Unveiling the truth behind the City of Miami's Commissioner Joe Carollo legal showdowns and city attorney controversy
Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo faces $63.5M verdict collection by the “8 St. Boys”
In an ongoing legal saga that spans six years, a significant development has occurred in the case of Little Havana businessmen William "Bill" Fuller and Martin Pinilla's efforts to collect a $63.5 million verdict against Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo. This verdict was awarded to them by a federal jury last summer. The jury found Commissioner Carollo, the city's longest-serving elected leader, had targeted Fuller and Pinilla for financial and personal ruin, leading to the staggering compensation.
Although it's unlikely that Carollo can fully satisfy this verdict, Fuller emphasized that the primary objective is to hold him accountable for the damage he caused. As a result, all of Carollo's accounts will be subject to seizure, marking a significant turning point in this legal battle. Carollo, claiming modest means and limited income beyond his $58,000 yearly city salary, responded to the judge's order with grim humor.
Carollo's attorney, Ben Kuehne, has indicated that they will argue for the protection of Carollo's home under Florida law. Additionally, they have pending motions to safeguard Carollo's wages from garnishment. The seizure of assets has commenced, starting with Carollo's income from Miami. However, it remains uncertain if the full extent of Carollo's assets will be disclosed to the public.
Attorney Jeff Gutchess, representing Fuller and Pinilla, noted that his clients agreed to keep Carollo's financial records confidential, which is standard in such civil proceedings. Carollo's most recent financial disclosure through 2022 showed assets of $2.58 million, primarily consisting of his $2.5 million Coconut Grove home. Carollo has asserted that he has no additional income from an external job and that the list of personal property he provided to the court would likely yield minimal auction proceeds. Carollo had, as recently as May of 2023, attempted to protect his home from seizure by changing the title to joint ownership with his wife, a move that ultimately failed due to deed errors.
The legal proceedings are ongoing, and Carollo's attempts to challenge the verdict and protect his assets persist. Meanwhile, the ordeal highlights a six-year battle for justice that continues to unfold.
Miami City Commission's heated vote on city attorney's contract extension
A tense and politically charged meeting of the Miami City Commission unfolded as they voted on the future of City Attorney Victoria Méndez's contract. The commission's decision was to extend Méndez's contract for a mere five months, allowing her to remain in her position until she becomes eligible for her pension. This decision was prompted by calls for Méndez's resignation from newly elected Commissioner Miguel Gabela and community activists, following a year marred by ethical and legal controversies involving multiple elected officials, including Méndez herself.
The vote not only addressed Méndez's contract but also unveiled simmering tensions between two factions within the commission, particularly after the recent election saw anti-corruption candidates Gabela and Damian Pardo defeating incumbents.
The discord reached a climax when Commissioner Gabela, in an emotional confrontation with Commissioner Joe Carollo, interrupted Joe Carollo's farewell speech to Méndez where he referred to the Little Havana businessmen that are suing him as the “8 ST. Boys” by repeatedly calling him a "liar." In response, Joe Carollo referred to Gabela as a "spoiled little man," and a staff member had to intervene to prevent physical contact.
The commission's vote resulted in a 3-2 majority in favor of the truncated contract extension, with Gabela and Pardo voting against it, hoping for Méndez's immediate resignation. The decision reflects the complexity of the situation and the divisions within the commission.
Méndez's contract will now expire in June, coinciding with her eligibility to collect her pension. The controversies surrounding Méndez, including a lawsuit against her and her husband for alleged real estate profiteering and a series of legal and ethical issues involving city officials, continue to shape the dynamics of Miami's political landscape.
Miami Commissioners extend City Attorney Méndez's tenure for five months
In the same heated and contentious meeting, Miami Commissioners voted to extend the tenure of City Attorney Victoria Méndez, albeit for just five months. This decision was made in response to calls for Méndez's immediate termination following a tumultuous year characterized by ethical and legal scandals involving city officials.
Commissioner Manolo Reyes proposed the resolution to delay Méndez's termination, arguing for a more respectful departure for an individual who has served the city for two decades. The resolution passed narrowly with a 3-2 vote, allowing Méndez to remain in her position until June.
Reyes, along with Commissioners Joe Carollo and Christine King, voted in favor of the extension. In contrast, newly elected commissioners Miguel Gabela and Damian Pardo voted against it. The main proponent of Méndez's immediate removal was Commissioner Gabela, who cited trust issues and felt that Méndez had not adequately represented him as a city commissioner.
The public comment period also featured voices calling for Méndez's termination, citing various controversies, including her alleged involvement in questionable real estate transactions and her role in legal matters affecting city officials. The meeting showcased the deep-seated divisions within the commission.
Méndez's contract extension is accompanied by ongoing legal and ethical concerns that have plagued her tenure. The city will form a committee tasked with finding and selecting a permanent replacement for Méndez during the five-month transition period, marking a pivotal moment in Miami's political landscape.
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