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Dade Ethics Panel Cites Two Commissioners, Mayor

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A pair of Miami commissioners and a mayor have been cited by the county’s Ethics Commission for violations.

On Tuesday the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found ‘probable cause’ that Commissioner Frank Carollo exploited his official position when he called Miami police Chief Manuel Orosa after he was pulled over for a traffic violation in Coconut Grove last August.

The investigation found that after Carollo called the chief, Orosa called the area commander, who then told dispatchers to have the officer call him. Carollo was let go with a warning.

The Ethics Commission determined that Carollo may have used his position to influence police officials, which is a violation of the Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance.

Carollo claimed that he never asked for special treatment or expressed concern with the officer’s stop. Through his attorney, Carrollo said he called Orosa to find out why several police vehicles and a city recycling truck were blocking a road.

Another part of the complaint accused Carollo of using his position to have trees planted in the swale near his home. Since the trees were part of a larger distribution through the district and did not solely benefit Carollo, the Ethics Commission found ‘no probable cause’ on that portion of the complaint.

Also taken to task by the Ethics Commission was Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff who was accused of failing to properly disclose a gift.

Sarnoff traveled to Brazil for activities associated with the Volvo Ocean Race at the stop prior to the race’s arrival in Miami last May. The Greater Miami Convention and Visitor’s Bureau reimbursed Sarnoff for all of his expenses.

Miami City Attorney said that because Sarnoff was taking part in official city business, he did not need to report it as a gift.

The Ethics Commission disagreed.

During the investigation, it was learned that Volvo Ocean Race reimbursed Sarnoff for his wife’s roundtrip airfare. The commission ruled that payment for a spouse’s expenses should be reported as a gift by an elected official. The Ethics Commission voted to issue one Letter of Instruction to the City Attorney clarifying when a business trip must be reported as a gift and another Letter of Instruction to Commissioner Sarnoff advising him to report reimbursement of his wife’s travel expenses as a gift to him.

A complaint against newly installed Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan Zapata by his political challenger was dismissed. Manuel Machado accused his District 11 opponent of misusing the County seal on campaign literature. While the County Code prohibits the use of the official seal without express authority, the Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction to enforce that section of the Code.

The Ethics Commission also found ‘probable cause’ that North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre exploited his position from October of 2009 through January of 2012 by avoiding payment of rental fees at a municipal athletic field used by his soccer club.

The commission’s investigation found that Pierre continue use the field free of charge even though a resolution was unanimously passed by the North Miami City Council in April 2010, which established policies for park rentals and limited fee waivers to certain qualified organizations.

The complaint charged that Pierre’s group, the “North Miami Taxpayers Soccer Club,” used the fields more than 100 times without paying.

Pierre objected to the accusation through his attorney, who argued the mayor was following proper protocol by utilizing the facility for “pick-up soccer games” and claimed the usage was consistent with “community service” activities of the city. The case will proceed to a public hearing.

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