The Miami-Dade Charter's Citizens' Bill of Rights prohibits local politicians from lying to the public under the "Trust in Government" clause. Yet the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust has never actually targeted an official for breaking that trust in government. Well, until now.
Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez has been hit with two separate violations of the clause after he lied to the public about loans he provided to a convicted Ponzi schemer. Yep, someone in local government is getting punished simply for lying to the public.
Hernandez was first elected to the Hialeah City Council in 2005 before becoming mayor in 2011, though before he entered the mayor's office he was a member of Hialeah's questionable shadow banking community in which high profile, connected wealthy citizens made high interest loans, often to shady businessman.
One such recipients of several loans was Luis Felipe Perez, who masqueraded as a jewelry entrepreneur, but, whoops turned out to actually be running a $40 million Ponzi scheme.
Perez received investments from Hernandez and his predecessor in the mayor's office, Julio Robaina. In fact, Hernandez was appointed interim mayor of Hialeah in 2011 when Robaina resigned to run for county mayor, and then ran for the post outright later that year. Robaina and his wife were charged with fraud relating to those investments, but they were acquitted last fall.
In the weeks leading up his election in 2011, the Miami Herald ran a story that Hernandez had connections to Perez and had made several loans to him at wild rates and never publicly disclosed the interest from those rates. Hernandez called a press conference, delivered in both English and Spanish, to deny the claims. He claimed that he made investments with Perez, but never received any profit and therefor had nothing to publicly disclose.
Hernandez was never in quite as deep as Robaina, but Hernandez was called to testify in the Robaina's trial.
And, well, what do you know, the evidence and Hernandez's testimony did in fact prove that he had received interest payments from Perez. In fact, his testimony in the Robaina trial contradicted everything he said during the press conference.
So Hernandez lied in a press conference, both in English and Spanish, as acting-mayor. Today, the Ethics Commission hit him with two charges for doing so.
Hernandez now could face fines of up to $1,500. but if he refuses to settle up the incident could go to civil trial.
Here's the full complaint: