Government

Joe Carollo Campaign Donor Tapped for Miami Commission Corruption Probe Tied to...Joe Carollo

The City of Miami has tapped Ricardo "Ricky" Gomez (left) to investigate ousted police chief Art Acevedo's corruption claims against Joe Carollo (right) despite having donated to Carollo's re-election campaign in 2021.
The City of Miami has tapped Ricardo "Ricky" Gomez (left) to investigate ousted police chief Art Acevedo's corruption claims against Joe Carollo (right) despite having donated to Carollo's re-election campaign in 2021. Screenshot via Facebook, Photo by Commissioner Joe Carollo/Facebook
Last September, at the end of the shortest tenure of a Miami Police Department (MPD) chief in city history, former top cop Art Acevedo authored an eight-page memo alleging rampant corruption among three Cuban-American city commissioners: Joe Carollo, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and Manolo Reyes. Specifically, Acevedo alleged that the trio, often referred to by dais-watchers as "the Three Amigos," had attempted to "weaponize" MPD personnel to satisfy personal vendettas and at times obstructed police business and investigations. The memo was addressed to Miami City Manager Art Noriega, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, and federal authorities.

During an embarrassing series of special meetings that culminated in Acevedo's ouster, commissioners voted to investigate themselves, a move Miami Herald opinion columnist Fabiola Santiago called "a laughable sham" at the time. Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez agreed to create a list of retired law enforcement officers to lead the probe.

Now it has been revealed that Ricardo "Ricky" Gomez, a former Doral police chief who contributed to Carollo's re-election campaign last year, has been tapped as the investigator. According to campaign-finance disclosures, Gomez, now an attorney in private practice specializing in criminal defense and traffic law, contributed $500 through his law firm to Carollo in April of 2021.

"I disclosed it to the city attorney and we didn't see it as a conflict of interest," Gomez tells New Times when asked whether the campaign donation might cause the appearance of a conflict. "A contribution is a contribution. It shouldn't be a conflict of interest. I would say it's not."

Gomez confirms that the City Attorney's Office retained him in December. He declined to share details of the inquiry into Acevedo's claims, noting that his investigation is ongoing.
click to enlarge Ricardo Gomez contributed $500 to Carollo's re-election campaign in 2021. - SCREENSHOT VIA VOTERFOCUS
Ricardo Gomez contributed $500 to Carollo's re-election campaign in 2021.
Screenshot via VoterFocus
Acevedo's accusations are also under review by the Broward County State Attorney's Office, after Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle stated that it would be a conflict of interest for her office to investigate.

Earlier this month, Acevedo and his attorneys filed a 52-page complaint in federal court; the ousted chief is suing the City of Miami for violating his rights under the First Amendment and the Florida Whistle-blower Act.

The complaint, which is embedded at the end of this article, identifies Gomez as the lead investigator of the city's internal inquiry: "This purported investigation is now being led by Ricardo Gomez, former City of Doral Police Chief who previously lost his job during a 2012 corruption scandal."

Gomez, a onetime Miami-Dade County Police Department officer, led the Doral Police Department from 2007 to 2012.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigated Gomez after an anonymous letter was sent to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office. Its most serious allegations: that he misappropriated $28,000 from a city vendor to pay for his own lavish swearing-in ceremony, and that he helped rig a furniture bid by tipping off one of the bidders late in the process about competitors' bids. FDLE issued an arrest affidavit for Gomez for the alleged bid-fixing in January of 2012, but the State Attorney's Office dropped the charges, stating in a close-out memo that he was "completely exonerated" and that they had found no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part.

Nevertheless, in December of 2012, barely a week into his own tenure as interim Doral city manager, Merrett Stierheim terminated Gomez after he'd "carefully reviewed" the FDLE report.

A month later, Stierheim abruptly resigned — whereupon Mayor Luigi Boria and the Doral City Council appointed Carollo as the new city manager.

(Gomez has staunchly maintained his innocence. "You get accused of something and get cleared and it keeps haunting you," he says today. "If I had done what they said, then they would've found something and filed charges. What else do I have to do to rehabilitate my image?")

Now, almost ten years removed from being fired from a police chief post by city officials, Gomez is tasked with investigating claims by a fellow former police chief who was fired by city officials.

The attorney tells New Times he intends to be fair in his inquiry, and that his financial support of Carollo's political career and past as a fired police chief will have no bearing on his work.

"I’m gonna be objective and impartial about my findings and that's about it. I wouldn't have taken this if I thought there would be a conflict," says Gomez.

Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez did not respond to New Times' request for comment via phone and email on Wednesday.
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Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos