Community leaders call for Commissioner Joe Carollo's resignation
By Nicole LaurenCBS Miami Team,2023-06-06
MIAMI - Community leaders and former elected officials called for Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo's resignation on Tuesday. Gathered outside Miami's City Hall they also called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to step in and take action.
They also want the current city commission to add an agenda item to Thursday's meeting to discuss a possible Carollo resignation.
This comes after he was ordered to pay more than $63 million dollars in damages to two Little Havana business owners.
It was a five year battle with between the business owners, Bill Fuller and his partner Martin Pinilla, and the commissioner. Fuller and Pinilla, who own the popular Ball & Chain bar and lounge along with several other properties, claim they lost millions after Carollo sent code enforcement and police after them for supporting a political rival back in 2017.
In the suit, the owners claimed that Carollo pressured code enforcement officers to visit at least two of their venues on dozens of occasions and that he wanted to have their liquor licenses pulled.
The Miami Herald reported that one of the businesses closed while another relocated out of the area.
Last week a jury ruled that Carollo violated their right to free speech and the two business owners felt vindicated.
Residents and community leaders who gathered at City Hall on Tuesday shared different experiences dealing with Carollo for over an hour. Signs behind those speaking Tuesday want to "fire" the 68-year-old who has been in public office for decades.
Daniel Figueredo, a small business owner in Little Havana, said Carollo targeted and harassed his business to the point of putting his family on the verge of bankruptcy.
"Me being here exposes me, my family, and my business to levels beyond most people here in this room. We still function as a business, and we have families to protect, but it's important that we stand eye to eye," said Figueredo, owner of Sanguich.
Others shared similar experiences or strong opinions, demanding Carollo leave office and give up his seat.
"I have seen this harassment firsthand," said Marvin Tapia, chair of the non-profit Viernes Culturales.
"He should be supporting and helping, and representing these businesses, and he does the complete opposite of that. So what he was saying is to summarize that the reason why the local business owners are not here is because of the fear of retaliation. And that is the complete opposite of what his job title is."
"We needed to collect signatures many times for the most basic things in the district to get done only just to get ignored," said another Miami resident.
Carollo's office door was shut, and the lights were turned off on Tuesday. The crowd would like to see him gone for good.
"Tired of politicians using their positions of power and using the city and the county funds taxpayer dollars for their bully pulpit," shared concerned resident Anthony Durden.
"Carollo's ability to fulfill his duties and maintain the trust of the public," added attorney David Winker, who represents the Brickell Homeowners Association. "The outcome of this lawsuit suggests a breach of these standards."
Commissioners are expected to seek clarity on who needs to make these payments, but there has yet to be an official word.
Carollo, 68, has been in public office for several decades. While he is responsible for the damages awarded to the business owners, taxpayers are on the hook for Carollo's $2 million in legal fees. That also angered those at City Hall.
Monday night, in an interview with America Teve, Carollo said in part that the "city of Miami should be lucky to have him."
CBS News Miami's Joe Gorchow texted and emailed each of the other four commissioner's staffers shortly after noon Tuesday, requesting comment. No one has answered as of Tuesday afternoon.