Anyone who's followed Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to campaign events the past couple of months has probably noticed Rafael Garcia-Toledo — the guy chauffeuring hizzoner from one stop to another in a white Lincoln Navigator. It's a menial job for Garcia-Toledo, considering he's also Gimenez's finance chairman, responsible for raising close to $3.5 million for the mayor's re-election.
But it might be a small price to pay for Garcia-Toledo, considering the lucrative subcontractor gigs he's landed for county-funded projects while literally sitting in the driver's seat of Gimenez's campaign.
Garcia-Toledo says he wouldn't use his friendship with Gimenez for gain: "I really enjoy the relationship I have with the mayor."
The mayor also insists there's no conflict in having his finance chief work on taxpayer-funded gigs, saying Garcia-Toledo's role gives him no bidding edge. "I've never asked anyone to hire Ralph," Gimenez says. "He is successful in his own right. He doesn't need me."
Indeed, his Coral Gables-based G-T Construction Group has earned $7 million as a subcontractor on four projects since 2000, including two ongoing contracts: a $2.9 million bid on work at the Adrienne Arsht Center and a $1.7 million deal to help build the new people mover at Miami International Airport.
Odebrecht Construction also included G-T on a team that has won a $57 million project to reinforce cargo wharves at the Port of Miami. Odebrecht is scheduled to pay G-T $350,000 for its role in that project.
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Also worth noting: Garcia-Toledo's wife, Vicky, a lawyer at downtown firm Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod, is a lobbyist for Genting Group, the Malaysian company that bought the Miami Herald headquarters with plans to turn ti into a casino resort.
Her role is to help Genting obtain county approval for its site plans. When Genting unveiled its massive project 12 months ago, Gimenez was one of the first politicians to endorse it.
Garcia-Toledo, who contributed $27,000 of his own money to Gimenez's political action committee, Common Sense Now, says he had nothing to do with Genting hiring his wife. "She's good at what she does," he says.