Joe Carollo Accused of Slapping Ball & Chain Owner With False Complaints

Joe Carollo Accused of Slapping Ball & Chain Owner With False Complaints
Photos: Joe Carollo's Instagram / Courtesy of Ball & Chain
There's good reason Miami's former mayor earned the nickname "Crazy Joe" Carollo. So when voters elected him to the city commission once again last fall, it's no surprise he brought that gravitational mass of insanity back to Dinner Key. Now Carollo is allegedly harassing his enemies in parking lots at 1:30 in the morning and yelling, "I am the law!" when confronted. Good job, everyone!

Bill Fuller, who owns Ball & Chain in Little Havana, accused the commissioner of that extremely Carollo-style harassment in a complaint filed with the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics & Public Trust in March, according to documents obtained by New Times. Fuller withdrew the complaint earlier this month, but only because he says he has more evidence and might pursue a criminal case instead.

The club owner's previously unreported allegations are startling: He told the ethics commission that Carollo repeatedly used city code-enforcement employees to file bogus violations against Fuller's properties — and even tried to shut down Fuller's company Christmas party last year by falsely claiming the business owner was handing out "illegal drugs."

Fuller also alleges Carollo personally staked out his properties late at night while running some kind of personal "investigation." The owner says an employee noticed Carollo casing one of Fuller's valet parking lots in his own car at 1:30 a.m. February 18 while an unidentified woman took photographs.

When an employee recognized Carollo and confronted him about what he was doing, the commissioner allegedly responded by hollering, "I am the law!"

So why would Carollo spend his time harassing the Little Havana entrepreneur and his employees? According to Fuller, Carollo was simply out for revenge because Fuller had publicly supported the commissioner's opponent, Alfie Leon.

Neither Fuller nor Carollo responded to New Times' multiple messages seeking comment on the allegations.

But in a letter to the ethics board this past Monday, Fuller's lawyer says he still stands by the claims. Fuller was withdrawing the complaint only because he thought that it was "too narrowly drafted" and that, after obtaining more evidence, he's weighing whether "further legal action and/or ethical complaints may be brought." Fuller's attorney also notes that Carollo has called the claims bogus and alleged Fuller is making them up to smear him.

Either way, the club owner's claims are just the latest in a decades-long history of bizarre allegations against the ex-mayor. Back when he was a cop, Carollo was caught putting a Ku Klux Klan-based "joke" in the mailbox of his black co-worker. He later tried to open an Asian restaurant called "Shogun Joe's." And, in 2001, he was arrested for throwing a hard object at his wife's head.

Since returning to city hall in last fall's elections, Carollo has made a racist joke directed at Miami's first Asian-American commissioner and harassed a city critic during a commission meeting. He was also reportedly under investigation for allegedly using city funds to back his favored candidate for a county commission bid — and then firing the staffer who reported him.

Carollo's ongoing spat with Fuller has been an open secret at city hall for months, especially since local blogger Al Crespo wrote about Fuller's odd appearance at city hall in June to fight code complaints that had been filed against a small "outdoor market" on one of his properties.

But the full details of Carollo's alleged vendetta against Fuller are peak Crazy Joe weirdness.

Fuller claims the ordeal began when he helped Leon, Carollo's commission opponent, hold a campaign event last November 18. Around 1 p.m., Fuller says, Carollo's chief of staff, Steve Miro, surreptitiously showed up and began taking pictures of the event. At 2 p.m., Miami Code Enforcement employees arrived and tried to shut the rally down. Fuller's team says it later confirmed with the City of Miami and through documents that Carollo and his allies had called in the code compliance complaints.

Fuller's company, the Barlington Group, then held its annual Christmas party December 15 at the Tower Hotel in Little Havana. Around 9 p.m., Fuller says, a code enforcement officer showed up at the party and claimed a "neighbor" had called to complain. At 1 a.m., Fuller received a call from his property manager, who said code enforcement had called again; when Fuller called to speak with the officer, he says, the cop explained that a local union rep aligned with Carollo had called to report Fuller was falsely distributing "illegal drugs" to guests.

Then, Fuller alleges, former Assistant City Manager Albert Parjus — another Carollo ally — instructed code enforcement to begin filing complaints against Fuller's properties. After Fuller's team asked Parjus why the city suddenly began targeting Ball & Chain, Parjus allegedly told Fuller he wanted to give the club owner "a hard time."

In February, things became truly Carollo-level nuts. Fuller says attendants at a valet parking lot affiliated with one of his properties noticed a car idling outside at 1:30 the morning of February 18. By day, the Saints Peter & Paul Orthodox Church used the lot; by night, a company called S.H. Valet parked cars there for Ball & Chain.

An attendant eventually asked a woman sitting inside the car what they were doing, and the woman allegedly responded by stating they were there to see the priest in the predawn night. The attendant then noticed that the pair never exited the car to enter the church. When the employee approached the car again, he noticed the woman snapping photos. The attendant told the woman to stop.

That's when Carollo exited the car, Fuller says, whipped out a City of Miami badge, and said the lot was under "official investigation." S.H. Valet's owner then came out to speak with Carollo and asked the commissioner what the heck he was doing, prompting Carollo's exclamation that he was "the law." The commissioner also allegedly told S.H. Valet's owner that he was upset the company was "working for a millionaire" like Fuller. S.H. Valet's owner then asked Carollo to leave, and he did so — but not before saying the parking operative would see the results of the commissioner's "official investigation" soon.

That same month, a film crew began working at Ball & Chain. Code enforcement arrived to ask the film crew what they were doing. The officers left after reviewing the film company's permits.

Fuller says things continued getting worse. In March, he says, the city suddenly revoked S.H. Valet's permit to park cars for Ball & Chain even though Fuller said the arrangement had existed for three years without any complaints. When Fuller's team asked why, the city said Carollo had reported the lot was "not to code."

At 11:43 p.m. that day, Fuller says, Carollo got in a car and followed an S.H. Valet employee outside Ball & Chain as the employee moved cars from the church lot to a new storage lot. Fuller says he photographed Carollo sitting outside the club in his car. (Scroll to the bottom of this story to see the alleged photograph.) After Carollo succeeded in shutting Ball & Chain's lot down, patrons hated the newer lot so much that Fuller's company had to issue refunds.

In his legal filing with the ethics commission Monday, Fuller's lawyer says that their investigation into Carollo's alleged actions has turned up more evidence and that, if Carollo doesn't let up on his alleged vendetta, Fuller's camp might pursue criminal charges against Loco Joe.

"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," Fuller's lawyer wrote.

Here's the rest of Fuller's legal response to the ethics commission:

Please be advised that the undersigned represents the Claimant, Mr. Bill Fuller in this matter. Mr. Fuller adamantly opposes Request for Legal Fees, Costs and Imposition of Fine and strongly disagrees with Mr. Carollo’s assertion that the complaint was frivolous.

As you are aware, Mr. Fuller filed his Complaint on or about March 14, 2018. In accordance with Rule 4.2 of the Rules of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics, the Complaint was reviewed by General Counsel and deemed legally sufficient. Based on that determination, an investigation into the claims against Mr. Carollo was opened.

At no time during this period, did Mr. Carollo make any allegations that this Complaint was frivolous or groundless, despite having seen all of the allegations in the Complaint. It was not until Mr. Fuller attempted, in good faith, to withdraw the Complaint, over five months later, that Mr. Carollo decided to allege that Mr. Fuller’s claims were frivolous and groundless.

Mr. Carollo, through his excessive indignation, attempts to assert that Mr. Fuller is withdrawing his Complaint because he has submitted false claims. Mr. Carollo alleges that Mr. Fuller has made “numerous false statements” that do not “state a good faith basis for claiming a violation.” However, Mr. Carollo does not supply any proof that Mr. Fuller has made materially false statements, but rather makes conclusory statements that simply counter the allegations. At no point has Mr. Carollo sat for a deposition or questioning, nor has he produced any evidence demonstrating the claims to be materially false, either during the investigation or with this Request.

To allege that this Complaint is frivolous and groundless five months after it has been filed, and with Mr. Carollo failing to sit for a deposition or any formal questioning, is both simply ridiculous and extremely telling.

In truth, Mr. Fuller is making a good faith attempt to withdraw his Complaint, not because the allegations are untrue, but because the Complaint itself was too narrowly drafted. 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. 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: Here's an image of Carollo allegedly bothering Ball & Chain workers in a private car around midnight last March:

Courtesy of Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics & Public Trust
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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.