Video Suggests Carollo Lied to Miami-Dade Ethics Board

Carollo on patrol outside Ball & Chain.
Carollo on patrol outside Ball & Chain. Courtesy of Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics & Public Trust
Confronted earlier this year by investigators from the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust, Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo admitted he showed up outside a valet parking lot for the Little Havana nightclub Ball & Chain around 1 o'clock one early morning in February. But he denied claims he whipped out a city parking placard, said he was conducting an "official investigation," and shouted "I am the law" at an employee who challenged him. Carollo also disputed testimony from three witnesses that he accused the parking attendant of "working with a millionaire" — namely, Bill Fuller, Ball & Chain's owner, who has accused Carollo of using city resources to target him as part of a political vendetta.

Now a new video suggests Carollo lied to investigators.

New Times obtained two seven-second clips from a witness who says he was riding in a GMC Terrain that night when Carollo was caught idling outside the Little Havana valet parking lot. The source — who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from Carollo — says the clip, which begins in the middle of a heated Spanish-language argument, shows Carollo arguing with a Ball & Chain parking attendant, which corroborates the account that three witnesses gave the ethics board.

The video does not show any faces, but it clearly includes Carollo's voice. In the middle of the argument, Carollo shouts, Pero trabajando con un millonario!"

The content of Carollo's comments to the parking attendant that night became an issue for county investigators after Fuller filed an ethics complaint this past March. The Little Havana property owner complained that Carollo was illegally using code enforcement agents and other city employees to target his businesses, all because Fuller had let Carollo's 2017 election opponent, Alfie Leon, hold a campaign rally on one of the Ball & Chain co-owner's properties.

Carollo, a former mayor long known as one of Miami's most outlandish politicians, denies the accusation and instead claims he's simply trying to rid Little Havana of corrupt businessmen trying to gentrify and "de-Latinize" it. Carollo has a long history of using code enforcement to attack enemies while accusing others of being "fat cats" and/or communists. He has also alleged without evidence that Fuller has ties to Cuban and Venezuelan militants and money launderers. Fuller says those claims are libelous.

Fuller withdrew his ethics complaint against Carollo in August and now claims he might instead file a civil or criminal complaint against the commissioner. The county ethics commission has filed no complaints against Carollo but has released a 38-page investigative summary, which includes interviews with 24 people.

During an interview with investigators in April, Carollo said he did not accuse the valet of working with "a millionaire," even though three witnesses told the ethics board the exchange happened.

"Carollo denied telling the valet that he (the valet) worked for a millionaire," the ethics board wrote in its close-out memo.

New Times provided Carollo and his lawyer Ben Kuehne with copies of the videos Friday. Neither responded to the messages.

The source who provided the footage says Carollo often encouraged his employees to film him while he drove around Little Havana looking for code violations. He believed the video evidence would help him force the city to take action.

In this case, the footage could backfire on Carollo. It appears to confirm at least one event the commissioner claimed never happened.

But it's unclear the consequences Carollo could face for lying. Though the ethics commission sometimes interviews witnesses under oath, the commissioner's interview with ethics investigators, including then-chief Joe Centorino, was considered an "informal" chat.

Carollo could face more serious consequences from other testimony to the board, though.

As New Times reported earlier this week, two county employees testified Carollo directly ordered them to look into code violations — a move that would break city law. If state prosecutors took up the case, the commissioner could face a $500 criminal fine, removal from office, or even 60 days in jail.

This is not the first time he has been accused of not being truthful. Stephen Miró, Carollo's former aide, told investigators that, after Fuller filed his ethics complaint, Carollo pressured Mrió to lie by saying Fuller's properties had been the subject of numerous, anonymous code complaints. Carollo has never responded to New Times' repeated requests for comment on the subject, but the commissioner told the Miami Herald that Miró is "a liar." (Miró also claims he was fired for reporting illegal campaign expenditures to law enforcement; Carollo, instead, claims Miró was fired for sexual harassment.)

"Joe wanted me to say there were anonymous complaints, and there were none," Miró said, adding Carollo tried to "coerce [him] into saying something that was totally not true."
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.