HIALEAH, Fla. – Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez made false statements to the public twice about interest income he earned from a private loan, the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust determined Wednesday.
By unanimous vote following a public hearing, the ethics commission found Hernandez violated the Citizens' Bill of Rights "Truth in Government" provision as alleged in a complaint filed by a commission advocate, officials said.
Hernandez was fined $3,000 for two counts of violating county ethics rules and assessed another $1,000 for investigative costs. The commission said the amount of the fines was doubled as a result of a finding by the commission that Hernandez knowingly violated the rules.
The commission authorized that a Letter of Reprimand be issued against Hernandez, who did not attend the hearing Wednesday afternoon.
Commission Advocate Michael Murawski presented evidence during the hearing that in October 2011 the then-interim mayor said one thing at press conferences in English and Spanish, but made contrary statements while testifying under oath during the federal tax evasion trial of former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina early last year.
At the 2011 press briefings, held during the mayoral campaign, Hernandez repeatedly disputed reports he failed to disclose tens of thousands of dollars in interest income on his Source of Income Statements for 2007, 2008 and 2009 when he was a Hialeah councilman, according to the ethics commission.
Instead, Hernandez contended the monthly payments from Hialeah jeweler Luis Felipe Perez represented the return of his principal investment and not interest payments on loans. However, under oath during the Robaina trial in April 2014, Hernandez testified that he did receive monthly interest payments totaling $100,000 over the three-year period, contradicting his previous public statements denying any reportable income, according to the commission.
"He was really insulting the intelligence of the public," Murawski said during closing remarks about the mayor's claim he expected to receive no up-front interest on his loans to Perez.
The chairman of the ethics commission, Nelson Bellido, noted that although Hernandez chose not appear before the commission to present a defense, he received "a very fair hearing."
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