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Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez
Miami-Dade County Mayor's Office

Integrity-Challenged Mayor Chastises Miami Herald in Pathetic Letter

Carlos Gimenez has not been a good Miami-Dade County mayor. He will forever be remembered as the leader who agreed to cooperate with Donald Trump's Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation police. He also brazenly vetoed the creation of an independent police-oversight board.

And he definitely has some ethical issues. Yet Gimenez fired off a letter to the Miami Herald on Wednesday with the utterly hilarious and pathetic title, "My integrity is sacrosanct."

The problem is that the daily's columnists referred to the mayor's son, C.J. Gimenez, a Miami-area lobbyist. C.J. is currently paid to schmooze for David Beckham and financier Jorge Mas' "Inter Miami CF" Major-League Soccer team. (Gimenez's other son, Julio, also works in Miami politics, but his influence is less important here.) Fresh off getting portions of a stadium deal approved by the City of Miami, the Beckham/Mas group is now reportedly asking the county for some gigantic concessions: The soccer group wants to use portions of Amelia Earhart Park, a county-owned green space, to build what it is calling a "soccer academy."

This, obviously, requires county approval. A normal person might assume that since the Beckham group is paying the mayor's son a lobbying salary, the mayor would step away from voting or ruling on any deals involving the company that employs his kid. But that's not our Carlos.

The mayor is instead splitting legal and ethical hairs so thin they can only be seen with an industrial microscope: Gimenez says since his son is only a registered lobbyist with the city, and not the county, everything is fine. Nothing seems corrupt at all. This is obviously a joke, especially to anyone with even a passing understanding of the way Miami-Dade County politics works. (For what it's worth, New Times warned about this issue months ago: In July, this reporter scolded the Beckham group for hiring both C.J. Gimenez and lobbyist Barbara Hardemon, who is the aunt of current City of Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon. Keon Hardemon voted in favor of the Beckham stadium deal and did not recuse himself either.)

Last week, veteran Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago wrote a pretty straightforward opinion piece on Gimenez, in which she called out the mayor for failing to step away from deals with a company that employs his child. She noted that critics have repeatedly filed official ethics complaints against Gimenez for getting mixed up in his son's business. The Beckham deal, she said, is merely another example of plainly unethical conduct by the mayor.

"Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s lobbyist sons have a right to make a living as they see fit," she wrote. "But they shouldn’t be able to get away with constantly making a buck off representing clients with county business before their father. It’s a blatant conflict of interest — and nepotism in plain sight."

The piece apparently enraged Gimenez, because he issued a 452-word letter that the Herald published Wednesday in which he steadfastly claimed he's never once been involved in any sort of ethical lapse involving his boys.

"I am proud of both my sons for studying a craft, working hard and earning a decent living," Gimenez said, without mentioning that his own political connections are likely the reasons his own kids get hired in the first place. (C.J. also briefly worked at a lobbying firm with ex-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was once videotaped manhandling a female reporter. But we digress.)

"My integrity and ethics are sacrosanct," the mayor continued. "There’s a recusal process, it’s transparent and I follow it."

The letter, for seemingly obvious reasons, does not mention the Beckham group. Gimenez danced around the fact that he's about to deal with a company that employs his kid. Check out how he explains this:

C.J. represents clients before several cities and other counties, but not in Miami-Dade. There was one occasion in 2015 when I became aware of an unsolicited proposal from the Trump organization to run a golf course at Key Biscayne, and since C.J. at the time represented Trump before some municipalities, I recused myself.

In fact, since before I was mayor, when I was elected county commissioner, I sought guidance from the Ethics Commission and recused myself from any deliberations involving proposed projects (such as red-light cameras) that involved C.J.’s clients. Neither of those projects, by the way, were approved.

That's a bizarre explanation, since the Trump organization example he cited is pretty darn similar to what's going on today with the soccer club. (The Herald's Doug Hanks implied as much on Twitter this week.) In 2015, then-civilian Donald Trump proposed taking over the Crandon Park golf course — at the time, C.J. Gimenez was working as a lawyer for the Miss Universe pageant and the Trump National Doral golf course. There are also still some questions about whether Gimenez followed ethics guidelines in that case: The mayor initially seemed to communicate with Trump a bit but did eventually recuse himself. C.J. was not a lobbyist at the county level that time, though.

But the mayor is not recusing himself now. On the same day the Herald published Gimenez's letter, the newspaper's county hall reporter, Doug Hanks, noted the mayor was "leading talks" with the Beckham group while his son was taking a paycheck from them. (Gimenez himself reportedly met with the Beckham group in person this week.)

“I do not need to recuse myself because I have no family member lobbying the County for this project,” Gimenez repeated to the newspaper. “My son C.J. represents the Beckham-Mas group on soccer stadium issues involving the City of Miami, not Miami-Dade County.”

Sounds "sacrosanct" to us.

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