MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Michael Grieco is now a former Miami Beach commissioner after pleading no contest Tuesday to a misdemeanor charge of violating campaign finance laws. This after he tendered his resignation just after 8:00 a.m.
“Effective immediately, I tender my resignation as Group 2 Commissioner for the remaining two weeks of my term. Serving our Great City of Miami Beach has been my greatest honor. Thank you for giving me the opportunity,” wrote Grieco in resignation letter.
Not long after, Grieco plead ‘no contest’ in Miami-Dade County criminal court to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of accepting a campaign donation made in the name of another.
He was sentenced to one year of probation and will not be allowed to run for office during that time in a deal pre-arranged with prosecutors.
“In principal today it’s a good result. There is no admission of guilt. No conviction. This will be sealed probably for just 6 months,” Grieco told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench after his court appearance.
Grieco’s attorney says he never intended to commit a crime.
“”He never intended to have any unauthorized contributions made to a political committee and all contributions have been returned,” said attorney Ben Kuehne.
“This is not about doing business with the city. This is not about doing anything that benefits me financially or personally,” said Grieco. “This is about the use of funds and an infraction. This is regrettable and I want to put it in my rear view mirror.”
Prosecutors say Grieco “did knowingly and willfully accept a contribution that was made in the name of another, directly or indirectly, a $25,000 contribution to the People for Better Leaders political committee.”
Grieco, once a leading candidate for mayor, will be on probation for 12 months, pay $3,000 to the State Attorney’s office and $3,000 to the Miami-Dade Committee on Ethics.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney says election and campaign laws forbid you to accept donations to PACS or regular campaign accounts from foreign nationals.
“What happened here was that in order to accept a handsome contribution from a foreign national the only way he could accept that it is to go through someone who could give and that was a realtor. There was a relationship between the realtor and the donor,” explained Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle. “You cannot give money through a straw donor. It makes perfect sense. The whole purpose is for contributions to a PAC or a campaign is to have open transparency on who is giving to whom.”
The Miami Herald reported that Grieco was connected to a secret political committee that had raised $200,000 from various beach VIPs including developers, lobbyists and city vendors. Grieco denied that.
At commission chambers, Grieco’s name was removed by 10:00 a.m.
Just last month, he announced he would not run for re-election.
“I am going to be focusing on my law practice. That’s an important thing to me. I also support the City of Miami Beach and its residents and want to help them in my private capacity and see that there is a happy future,” he said. “I can tell you that I really appreciate the support from all the residents and this is a truly humbling experience. I have heard from thousands of people and you know who your friends are. The support was amazing.”
Fernandez-Rundle hopes there is a lesson here.
“The public has to have confidence that those officially running for office or in office serve honestly and do it transparently.”
It is not known if Grieco will ever run for office again. He will also have to take a Miami-Dade ethics committee course. It is called the Clean Campaign class.
The judge also said if Grieco successfully meets all of his obligations, he could file a motion for early termination of his probation after 6 months.