There Joe Carollo is, caught in a grainy image like he's some unholy cryptid combination of Bigfoot, Angela Lansbury, and Alex Jones. The fact that the photo is low-res and black-and-white somehow makes it more compelling. Look at how his eyes glow like he's the Loch Ness monster, but with a forged private detective's license.
According to Bill Fuller, co-owner of the historic Little Havana club Ball & Chain, the photo shows Carollo undertaking a completely insane "official investigation" on his own time and staring at Ball & Chain employees as if he's a sane, normal politician. Fuller says he took the photo around midnight last March as Carollo showed up to watch Ball & Chain employees move cars out of a valet parking lot. Fuller alleges Carollo later fraudulently shut the lot down by abusing his power as a city commissioner.
New Times obtained the photograph yesterday from the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics & Public Trust. Fuller alleges in a March ethics complaint that "Crazy Joe" Carollo is up to his old shenanigans: The club owner says that, because he supported Carollo's election opponent Alfie Leon in 2017, the commissioner has mounted an allegedly illegal vendetta against Fuller's properties.
The ethics complaint, which New Times detailed publicly for the first time yesterday, states Carollo and his minions repeatedly called in bogus code violations on Fuller's properties, including Ball & Chain. Fuller included this photo of Carollo outside his club:
Fuller voluntarily withdrew his complaint last week, which allowed the ethics commission to release his filing. Fuller's lawyer Monday sent the ethics commission a letter stating he withdrew the complaint because he'd actually obtained more evidence against Carollo and was weighing whether to request civil or criminal action.
Carollo has not responded to multiple calls and emails from New Times this week about the claims but has said in ethics commission filings that he believes Fuller made up the entire story to smear him.
But Fuller's photograph casts further doubt on Carollo's side of the story. That's a wild
Carollo previously served as mayor of Miami in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He's been repeatedly accused of racism, was arrested in 2001 for allegedly clocking his wife and leaving "golf-ball-sized" welts on her head, once tried to open an Asian restaurant called Shogun Joe's, constantly claims "communists" are infiltrating city hall, and once tried to give a city-issued gun to a member of the Saudi royal family, among other tales. Carollo was a favorite target for legendary Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen, who once wrote that the politician lives with a "wobbly brainpan." Earlier this year, he was reportedly under criminal investigation for allegedly using city money to campaign for his pal and then for firing the whistleblower who reported the allegedly illegal campaigning to prosecutors.
In November, Fuller claims, Carollo used code enforcement to try to stop Fuller's pro-Leon rally. Then, he says, Carollo's lackey lied to code officials by claiming Fuller was distributing "illegal drugs" at his company Christmas party. In another case, Fuller says, former Assistant City Manager Albert Parjus told Fuller the city was calling in code violations on Ball & Chain just to give Fuller "a hard time."
In the most flabbergasting case, Carollo in February allegedly showed up in a private car outside Ball & Chain at 1:30 a.m. with a woman who was snapping photos of the club's valet parking lot. When parking attendants asked what they were doing, Carollo's accomplice allegedly said they were there, at 1:30 in the morning, to meet a priest at a church next door. When attendants asked again, Carollo allegedly whipped out a City of Miami badge, claimed he was conducting an "official investigation," and then, when a parking attendant asked more questions, hollered, "I am the law!"
In his ethics complaint, Fuller says one of his employees snapped the photo above during the second instance, in which Carollo successfully had Fuller's valet lot closed and then showed up to watch Fuller's employees move the cars off the property. Fuller says the photo was taken just before midnight last March. He says he's had to issue refunds to customers who hate the new parking service since the valet lot was closed.
Earlier this year, blogger Al Crespo reported that code enforcement's "special master" decided to give Fuller extra time to deal with the flood of code complaints that were jamming his properties. Carollo responded by filing a motion to try to not only fire the city official but also remove the "special master" position entirely.
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In his legal response to the ethics commission this past Monday, Fuller insinuated that if Carollo didn't stop the shenanigans, the club owner might hand his pile of stalking or harassment evidence over to criminal investigators.
"Mr. Fuller and his legal counsel believe that, based on the evidence produced by the Complaint, combined with a preponderance of other evidence our team has uncovered, further legal action and/or ethical complaints may be brought," Fuller's lawyer wrote. "It will be solely up to my client if he chooses to opt for further legal actions — and seek any and all remedies available. It is certainly my client’s hope that Mr. Carollo will accept the good faith withdrawal, in hopes that both parties can co-exist without the ongoing issues my client and his entities have been subjected to by Mr. Carollo."
Update: The Ethics Commission has since provided a color version of the photograph: