The Return of Loco Joe

Miami's mayoral meltdown has a long and nasty history

Carollo eventually offered to settle for $5000, which Macaulay accepted. "He never once indicated he was displeased with my services," the lawyer says. Then in January 1993, in what Macaulay sees as a private version of the Ferre double-cross, Carollo sued the lawyer, claiming he had been negligent in not informing him of Shane's slipshod financing. Macaulay countersued, seeking $125,000, and won a confidential settlement. During the lawsuit Carollo forked over tax returns and made statements in court that showed he had earned as much as $925,000 per year in general business income.

"I believe that he lied to me in 1992 when he claimed he was broke," Macaulay says. "He thought I'd settle. This man tried to shake me down based on perjury and he lost. The bottom line is that either I committed perjury in that case or Joe Carollo committed perjury. The jury believed me, the judge believed me; common sense and the documents all show that I was telling the truth. Joe Carollo's history is consistently one of dishonesty. There is no new Joe; this is the same old Joe."

Warshaw lost his battle with Carollo, but vows the war is far from over
Steve Satterwhite
Warshaw lost his battle with Carollo, but vows the war is far from over
Penelas's gaffe left Carollo alone in the media spotlight, which he used to destroy his political enemies
Steve Satterwhite
Penelas's gaffe left Carollo alone in the media spotlight, which he used to destroy his political enemies

Smarting from the failure of Shogun Joe's, Carollo tried again to win elected office. In 1989 he ran for the commission against Miller Dawkins and lost, at least partially because of his role in the Howard Gary firing. He also came up short twice in 1993, losing to Ferre in a county commission race and to Willie Gort in a Miami commission bid.

It seemed Carollo's history of deceit and explosive behavior had caught up with him. His only chance to regain the public's favor was to retool his image. "I am convinced that Joe is as honest and incorruptible as any elected official can be," says his long-time colleague and lawyer Ben Kuehne. "When he sees people motivated by things other than what's in the best interests of the city, he becomes angry. Perhaps sometimes he is too vehement in his attacks."

In 1995 Carollo ran against De Yurre and a charismatic young lawyer named Humberto Hernandez. The Herald endorsed Hernandez, but two months before the election news broke that Hernandez was under federal investigation and the paper backed Carollo, who won easily. De Yurre attributes the loss to Miami's short-term memory: "People, including the Miami Herald, had forgotten what he was all about. People don't change. You make adjustments in life, but you are basically the same."

At the time Miami's mayor was Steve Clark, who was terminally ill with cancer. Clark died in June and a month later Carollo took the city's top job after a special election. When Carollo's abbreviated term was up in 1997, he decided to run again. His opponent this time was former mayor Xavier Suarez.

Carollo's embittered ex-lawyer Macaulay believed it was his civic duty to explain Carollo's swindling nature to the Herald, lest they endorse him again. He spoke with a Herald reporter, but the flattering profile of Carollo published in November made no mention of Macaulay's case. After Macaulay complained then-Herald executive editor Doug Clifton wrote a letter explaining the court battle was too "confusing" to include in the article. The editorial board's endorsement of Carollo was irrelevant to the decision, Clifton added. "Editorial recommendations have no bearing on news coverage. We try to make our news calls as free of bias as we can but recognize that news judgment is not a science. Perhaps, for example, voters would have been illuminated by an airing of the charges and counter charges in your dispute. We thought the pre-election air was clouded enough without it."

So Macaulay met with Miami Daily Business Review columnist Tony Doris, who wrote several stories on the case after the election. "We thought it was a prime example of the Herald having put Carollo in place and then taking great care to stand by their man," Doris recalls. "Here was an obvious example of involvement by the mayor in something that seemed untoward. And where was the Herald? [Carollo] had gone into a business he had never been in before in the middle of a recession, couldn't make it work, and then turned around and blamed his lawyer. It showed us a bit about his character."

In 1997 Suarez beat Carollo. This time Carollo's tendency to see conspiracies paid off. He sued to overturn the election based on massive voter fraud and won. In 1998 he took his place as mayor.

If Carollo was not paid enough critical attention by the Herald and the public, it's understandable. These were tumultuous times. In 1996 federal agents arrested City Manager Cesar Odio and Commissioner Miller Dawkins on bribery charges. The follow-up investigation disclosed a $68 million deficit in city finances. Then Hernandez was indicted in 1997 on real estate fraud and money-laundering charges. (He was later convicted). After the voter-fraud episode ended in early 1998, Miamians had had enough excitement. Joe promised stability.

"No one's going to laugh at the City of Miami with me as mayor," Carollo vowed in a March 1998 Associated Press story.

That of course was before Elian.

When Carollo fired City Manager José Garcia-Pedrosa and picked Police Chief Donald Warshaw to take Garcia-Pedrosa's place in June 1998, many people viewed it as a necessary step toward healing the city. Together Warshaw and Carollo promised to fight fraud and clean up city finances. City hall was filled with talk of the new, statesmanlike Joe.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
Miami Concert Tickets