Miami Mayor's 2022 World Cup Security Costs Come to Light | Miami New Times


Records Contradict Mayor Suarez's "No City Funds" Claim on 2022 World Cup Trip

Two cops flew to Qatar and stayed at a posh hotel "to provide dignitary protection for the Honorable Mayor Suarez."
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez looks on as David Beckham arrives for a meeting at Miami city hall in July 2018.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez looks on as David Beckham arrives for a meeting at Miami city hall in July 2018. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Share this:
When questioned about the nature of his trip to Qatar during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Mayor Francis Suarez's office said, "No City of Miami funds are being used," according to a CBS Miami report.

However, public records obtained by New Times appear to conflict with that statement.

Newly released documents indicate that two City of Miami police officers traveled to Qatar on the City of Miami's dime from December 13 to December 19 "to provide dignitary protection for the Honorable Mayor Suarez."

According to expense reports provided to New Times, the city reimbursed $1,102 to each officer for their food expenses, equating to roughly $157 a day per officer. An internal email from the mayor's office, sent ahead of the trip, notes the officers' accommodations at the luxurious, five-star Mandarin Oriental hotel in Doha and airfare "are covered," though the message did not mention the cost.

Another document listing estimated expenses in advance of the trip indicated that the mayor's office would provide the Qatar Airlines plane tickets to the officers.

It's still not clear who bankrolled Suarez's accommodations. New Times has filed public records requests for city-funded expenses for the trip but has not received any responsive documents related directly to Suarez's costs. 

"If the trip itself, including the cost of transportation expenses, hotel accommodation expenses, food, and beverages, were paid for by third parties, and they were given to the mayor, or the mayor accepted them, then it very well could have ethics law implications under Florida law," Caroline Klancke, executive director of the nonprofit Florida Ethics Institute, tells New Times.
click to enlarge
The "Miami Boys" were all dressed up in Qatar.
Screenshot via Instagram Stories (cropped)
As New Times previously reported, Suarez hung out with soccer legend David Beckham, an Inter Miami CF co-owner, at the France-Morocco World Cup semifinal in Qatar on December 14, 2022. Beckham posted a photo of the pair at Al Bayt Stadium on social media with the caption, "Miami Boys in town."

Beckham was serving as a World Cup ambassador to Qatar under a lucrative multi-year deal. The retired soccer great also stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, which boasts a rooftop pool, elaborate white-and-beige fixtures, and decked-out, polished stone bathrooms.

"The trip definitely gives rise to scrutiny regarding who the donor of the trip was," Klancke says. "Did Mayor Suarez pay for the value of the trip personally? Those matters need to be scrutinized by the public to ensure no issues are present."

Klancke adds that it's standard procedure for mayors in Florida to have a sergeant-at-arms serving as their personal security. But certain criteria must be met when deciding whether protection is necessary based on a city's guidelines.

"They are locality specific, so the City of Miami is going to have requirements, ordinances, or administrative procedures regarding how those individuals are utilized on remote trips," Klancke explains. "Those are individuals who provide protection at the public expense, and that is not unusual."

While it's not uncommon for mayors of major U.S. cities to travel overseas, Suarez's trip raises potential ethical concerns in light of Beckham's pending stadium deal with the city. In 2018, voters approved a no-bid deal to build a new stadium for Inter Miami at the publicly owned Melreese Country Club site. Beckham and his fellow Inter Miami co-owners later secured the City of Miami Commission's approval to turn over the property so the team could build the 25,000-seat soccer stadium as part of the Miami Freedom Park project, set to include a commercial complex and hotel.

"Mayor Suarez is in a capacity to try to attract investments to the City of Miami and to promote Miami as a global destination for tourism and sports activities," Klancke tells New Times. "Now, going all the way to Qatar is unusual, but it's not unheard of for that to be a part of an individual's mission who's serving as mayor in this capacity for a city that has a global perspective."

The mayor's office told CBS Miami that he was in Qatar to lobby for Miami to be chosen as the site for FIFA tournament matches in 2026, presumably referencing the World Cup, "in a round that will maximize the benefit for Miamians."

New York City Mayor Eric Adams also traveled to Qatar and attended two 2022 World Cup games in Doha. The details of his trip remained a mystery to constituents, though he said he covered the bill for his lodging.

Suarez, who recently threw his hat into the ring for the 2024 presidential election, has been tight-lipped when asked about who foots the bill for his pricey outings.

During Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix weekend in May 2023, Suarez lived it up at the lavish Paddock Club and wined and dined at expensive private events. The Miami Herald reported that billionaire Citadel CEO Ken Griffin provided the mayor and his wife tickets to the Paddock Club and that the city asserted Suarez would be covering the cost.
KEEP NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls. Make a one-time donation today for as little as $1.