I have lived in Miami since 2015, and I grow increasingly frustrated and saddened by what an absolute disaster it has become due to lackluster leadership from our elected officials. Aside from the evergreen issues of chronic flooding, lack of public transportation, skyrocketing housing costs and rampant corruption, the city is being consumed by nonstop scandals.
Recently, one of the most perennially corrupt characters in Miami government, City Commissioner Joe Carollo, lost a lawsuit against the owners of a venue in Little Havana called Ball & Chain and was ordered to pay a total of $63.5 million dollars, on top of legal fees, for weaponizing city agencies against them and their tenants due to their support for one of Carollo’s political opponents. The city attorney (who was deposed and is a witness in a second lawsuit against the city by the owners of Ball & Chain) has been implicated in a corruption scandal involving a Miami-Dade County program that is supposed to sell properties of ‘incapacitated’ people but was being abused by her husband to reap big profits. The redrawing of the commission district maps was thrown out after a lawsuit due to transparent racial gerrymandering and self-dealing by the commissioners. Last but not least, Mayor Francis Suarez is now under FBI investigation after secretly taking up to $170,000 payments from a developer that later thanked Suarez in an email for intervening with the city zoning director to cut red tape for one of the developer’s luxury projects.
You would think that if you were the mayor of Miami, actively being investigated by the FBI for a corruption scandal and presiding over a dumpster fire of a municipal government, the last thing on your mind would be a presidential run, but Suarez announced a quixotic campaign for president of the United States, that he finally suspended Tuesday. During that campaign, Suarez asked for $1 dollar donations as a raffle to win tickets for an InterMiami soccer match featuring star-player Lionel Messi. The raffle raised questions about whether Suarez complied with campaign finance laws. Suarez has not said who provided or paid for the tickets, their value, or how this raffle is being documented.
Up until the recent crypto-market crash, Suarez peddled the cryptocurrency “MiamiCoin,” which lost 99% of its value and was permanently suspended from trading. Suarez’s promotion of this cryptocurrency reached such a ridiculous crescendo that he actually claimed during an appearance on Fox & Friends that the revenue generated by the city of Miami’s stake in MiamiCoin would be given “as a dividend to all of our residents in Bitcoin” through a “digital wallet.” Even more absurdly, he added that “if this thing continues to grow, there is a world under which we can actually run the city without taxes.”
Needless to say, none of that happened and investors lost money.
Most recently, Suarez has accepted unethical gifts from entities that have business before the Miami Commission, with the Miami Herald reporting he accepted $30,000 worth of Formula 1 tickets and similarly high priced tickets to Miami Heat Games. The Grand Prix tickets were a gift from Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, who is pursuing luxury development projects in the Miami. Florida ethics laws are clear in prohibiting elected officials from taking expensive gifts from anyone with business in front of their city.
I feel strongly there is sufficient evidence here to warrant an investigation into Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s actions with respect to his ongoing abuse of public office to benefit and enrich himself while compromising his ability to properly represent the best interests of city residents. I recently filed an ethics complaint at the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust and at the Florida Commission on Ethics. It’s time for authorities to step in and put a stop to the shameless corruption in Miami. We deserve better than a part-time mayor who functions as a full-time grifter.
Thomas Kennedy is a writer, advocate and elected Democratic National Committee member living in Miami. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram at @tomaskenn.