FLORIDA POLITICS: Will Carlos Gimenez’s construction firm ties taint the FIU bridge collapse criminal probe?


Will Carlos Gimenez’s construction firm ties taint the FIU bridge collapse criminal probe?

Federal rules against family members lobbing elected relatives.
  • § 1962. Prohibited activities:
    • (A) - "It shall be unlawful for any person who has received any income derived, directly or indirectly, from a pattern of racketeering activity or through collection of an unlawful debt in which such person has participated as a principal"

Last week, federal authorities fined Munilla Construction Management $25,868 for “serious” safety violationsin its role as the contractor on the Florida International University bridge that collapsed in March, killing six people.

The morning after the collapse, Juan Perez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, said the department’s homicide squad will explore criminal charges for contractors such as MCM.

“We’ve got to look at the reality that there may be some negligence down the line,” Perez said.

Perez answers to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who appointed him director in January 2016.

Miami-Dade is the only county in Florida where the Mayor picks who runs the police department. The other 66 counties have elected sheriffs who answer to the people. Amendment 10, which will be decided by Florida voters this November, would mandate that constitutional officers such as sheriffs be elected by the people.

Because of this unique situation — where the head of the police department answers to Gimenez and not Florida voters — it’s important to look at the concerning relationship between the Mayor and MCM, one of the contractors police will investigate.

The Munilla family has deep ties to Gimenez and have been very generous in their political donations, giving thousands to the mayor and city commissioners over the years. Since 2011, when Gimenez became mayor, MCM has been paid $147,739,470 by Miami-Dade County according to the county’s disbursement database, one of the highest totals for any company operating in the county.

In a “surprise move” last year, Gimenez installed himself on the board of the Miami Dade Expressway Authority as the only elected official on the board that controls how the revenue from new tolls is spent. At the very same time, his son Carlos J. Gimenez was MCM’s lobbyist, specifically registered to lobby MDX board members on the company’s behalf.

While Gimenez served as city commissioner, MCM hired his other son Julio in 2006. In the next few years at MCM, Julio made news for cocaine possessionand drunkenly assaulting a bar patron during a football game but never lost his job at the construction company. In 2011, MCM’s hiring of both Gimenez sons resulted in an ethics commission asking the mayor to recuse himself from an MCM project.

Miami-Dade County municipal code Section 2-11.1 states that the county mayor, commissioners and members of their immediate families are prohibited from entering contracts that have a financial conflict of interest with the County.

In his 2011 run for Mayor, Gimenez signed a pledge to “avoid conflicts of interests in county lobbying activities by requiring public disclosures related to lobbying activities and prohibiting any person or entity who lobbies on the county’s behalf from lobbying county government on behalf of others during such county representation.”

PolitiFact declared it a “Promise Broken.”

All of this begs the question: If a company with deep ties to the Mayor is under investigation, should his hand-picked police director be in charge?

Or should it be an independent sheriff — accountable to the people?

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