Last Wednesday, shortly before
dawn, Rolando Bolaños logged on to his Facebook account to update his status
regarding his favorite subject, Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina. The ex-Hialeah
Police chief informed his network of friends about a $200,000 private loan
Robaina received from a city vendor in 2002. Three days earlier, Bolaños had commented
about Robaina's close relationship with accused Ponzi schemer Luis Felipe Perez
and disgraced former state Rep. Ralph Arza.
It's unusual for a retired police chief to wage a public
vendetta against his former boss on the Interwebs, but this isn't just any town.
It's Hialeah. "Everybody is on Facebook," Bolaños rhapsodizes. "It's free, and
it's technologically efficient. I can state my opinion without people changing
it. Besides, I don't know how to Twitter."
Bolaños's use of the popular
social media network to discredit Robaina provides an unfiltered view into the
nasty political civil war that has flared up in the City of Progress. On one
side is Robaina, the anointed successor to longtime Hialeah overlord Raul Martinez, who
weathered three trials and one overturned conviction before federal prosecutors dropped
their extortion and racketeering case.
On the other are Bolaños and former
Hialeah Housing Authority Executive Director Alex Morales, who accuse the
current mayor of running an unethical and corrupt administration. Robaina "is a
phony," Bolaños tells Banana Republican "He is not the person I thought
Robaina, an influential
Cuban-American Republican who is a rumored 2012 county mayoral candidate,
declined three requests for an interview. The Hialeah mayor is playing a
big role in Miami-Dade School Board member Perla Tabares Hantman's re-election
campaign, raising funds and supplying volunteers.
Politics in Hialeah has never
been for the meek. It's a grimy game that for a quarter-century was controlled
by Martinez's iron grip. If you wanted to get elected to the city council, you
had best stay on his good side. Anyone who dared challenge Martinez's power was
pulverized with impunity. Robaina, a Martinez acolyte, was elected to the city
council in 1997. He served as council president from 2001 to 2005. That year, Martinez retired and Robaina won the mayoral election by 60
For 20 years, Bolaños was the
Hialeah mayor's loyal police chief until he retired in 2007. Then came the
rift two years later. Bolaños's son Daniel wanted to run for the city council seat currently
occupied by Katharine Cue, a 22-year-old former Miss Hialeah. The Bolaños
patriarch wanted his friend Robaina's support despite the fact that Daniel and
his brother, Rolando Jr., both former cops, were accused of police brutality by
eight victims in the late '90s.
(Daniel resigned in 2004 rather than go through
a retrial. Rolando Jr. resigned after a separate criminal investigation turned
up that he did not disclose he had been arrested for grand theft auto when he
applied with the Hialeah PD. Last year, junior was criminally charged with robbing a Hialeah bank.)
According to Bolaños, Robaina
instructed him and Daniel to meet with Arza, who acts as an emissary for the
Hialeah mayor. When the three men convened at a Starbucks in Miami Springs,
Arza asked them to run against Councilman Luis Gonzalez, a friend of theirs.
Says Bolaños: "We told him we would run against Cue."
Bolaños says he knew that when
the clandestine coffee meeting ended, he and his son "wouldn't have a good time
with [their] campaign." He says, "Julio made phone calls to friends I wanted to
raise money from [and told them] that Kathy was his candidate and that Danny
was not to be helped." Cue defeated Daniel Bolaños by a whopping 90 percent in
the 2009 November city election. Robaina was re-elected by capturing 93 percent
of the vote.
Two weeks after his resounding
victory, Robaina acquired another ally-turned-enemy in Morales, then the
Hialeah Housing Authority's top administrator. The authority's board of
directors, appointed by Robaina, fired Morales, who is suing the mayor for
defamation in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Morales has a separate complaint
against the HHA for breaching his employment contract.
Since this past May, Bolaños and
Morales have teamed up to destroy Robaina's credibility. They have appeared at
city council meetings to accuse the mayor of playing a shell game with the city
budget, among other dastardly deeds. During the council's July 28 meeting,
Morales brought up a loan Robaina received from Fedan Tire Corp., as well as
another private deal between the mayor and a city vendor.
Morales revealed that Robaina took out a $200,000 loan on July 1, 2002, from Felix
Sanchez, owner of Fedan. The transaction took place when the mayor was city
council president and one year after he and his council colleagues unanimously
voted to award Fedan a $50,000 contract to provide city vehicles with
replacement tires and roadside service. Sanchez did not return two messages left with his assistant at his business located at 115 W 22 St.
Between 2002 and 2003, Morales
noted, Robaina voted three separate times in favor of Fedan, including once for
a new $50,000 deal and then subsequently to increase that amount by $20,000.
According to Miami-Dade court records, Robaina paid off Sanchez September 24,
On his Facebook page, Bolaños
accused Robaina of violating the state's elected officials code of ethics which forbids private deals like the one the Hialeah mayor entered into. The ex-chief says Robaina also failed to publicly disclose the loan at any of the city council meetings or on his
financial disclosure statements during the two years the loan was outstanding.
In a separate deal five years
later, and two years after being elected mayor, Robaina and his sister loaned
$300,000 to the wife of Roberto Blanco, who at the time was owner of Galloway
Towing Services Inc., which provided towing for the police department. Like his
transaction with Sanchez, Robaina did not list the loan as an asset on his 2007
and 2008 financial disclosure forms. He did include the loan in his 2009 statement.
Bolaños and Morales claim Robaina
again violated Florida's elected officials code of ethics by entering into a deal with Blanco's wife.
Robaina's detractors have also focused on the mayor's
business relationship with Luis Felipe Perez, a flashy Hialeah diamond jeweler
whom the feds have criminally charged with running a $40 million Ponzi scheme.
Perez showered political campaign contributions on Robaina, Martinez, and many
other Miami-Dade elected officials, but only Robaina has publicly admitted to
doing business with the accused scammer.
MR Holdings Co., a corporation owned
by the mayor's wife, Raiza Villacis-Robaina, loaned Perez $100,000 in September
2006 at an annual interest rate of 18 percent. According to Miami-Dade Clerk of
Courts records, Perez paid off the loan in 2007.
In an article that appeared in El Nuevo Herald this past June 5, Robaina
claimed he was aware of the alleged Ponzi scheme 18 to 24 months before Perez
was indicted. Robaina said, "I knew the problem because my wife was cheated. I
cannot give details because it is in the hands of the lawyers."
Bolaños posted the Herald article on his Facebook page
this past August 8 with the following comments: "When you know for the past
18-24 months that the GIVER is a TAKER and that the funds MAY come from
victimized citizens, THEN, my friends, there is something WRONG with ROBAINA's
standards of ETHICS."
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Morales, who provided copies of
the loan documents to city council members and Banana Republican, says the goal is to expose
Robaina. "There is a serious lack of ethics by the mayor," Morales says.
"Robaina has a clear conflict of interest. This guy is not on the up-and-up."