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Recall effort of Miami City Commissioner Joe Carollo begins ‘in earnest,’ organizers say

Carollo says ‘Take Back Our City’ political committee comprised of ‘socialist radicals’

MIAMI – Organizers of the political committee “Take Back Our City” amended their Jan. 30 filing on Tuesday morning to specifically state that the purpose of the organization is for the “recall of Commissioner Joe Carollo.”

The filing also included a change in treasurer.

Carollo, who represents District 3, has been an outspoken critic of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and City Manager Emilio Gonzalez, the latter of who resigned last month.

Members of “Take Back Our City” said in the absence of a specific city law related to recall procedures they are following state legal guidelines.

Former District 1 candidate and “Take Back Our City” volunteer spokesman Eleazar Meléndez told Local 10 News that the group is working to secure just over 1,500 signatures over the next 30 days.

In a news release he stated that “former elected and public officials, including former Miami-Dade County Commission Chair Bruno Barreiro, former Miami City Manager Joe Arriola and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz” were some of the community leaders behind the recall effort.

Arriola confirmed to Local 10 News that he is funding the recall effort to the tune of $100,000 of his personal money. He said he anticipates that others will also pitch in.

In a statement Carollo stated in part, “The vast majority of this small group do not live in District 3 and is comprised of socialist radicals, as well as others that want to do business with the Cuban dictatorship and corrupt politicians that want to be relevant again.”

EXPLOSIVE CITY HALL MEETING:

City Manager Emilio Gonzalez’s resignation came in the wake of an explosive Jan. 9 city commission meeting that led to an early adjournment before any city business could be done. On Tuesday morning, some of the recall organizers referenced that meeting in their reasons for beginning a recall effort.

Related Link: https://www.local10.com/news/local/2020/01/09/spat-between-miami-commissioners-leads-to-meeting-being-adjourned-early/

There was a plethora of items on the agenda for the meeting that led to a power struggle regarding what would be discussed first, who would get to decide and who was making the rules, which led to utter chaos, the adjournment of the meeting and then a fiery exchange between Carollo and the commission Chair Keon Hardemon.

Related Link: https://www.local10.com/news/local/2020/01/16/miami-city-manager-resigns/

After a failed vote to fire Gonzalez in December, Carollo moved to have him investigated -- a move the mayor vetoed.

Gonzalez stepped down amid tension with some city commissioners, like Carollo, who accused Gonzalez of doctoring documents to secure a work permit on his home and using his authority to fast track the process.

“Our city commission meetings have devolved into a circus,” Gonzalez wrote in his resignation letter. “Personal discussions have given way to the politics of personal destruction.”

PEDROSA: THE RED HERRING?

On Tuesday, Carollo also made reference to Rene Pedrosa, the former communications director for Suarez, who now faces several charges related to a sex crimes case involving a minor.

Related Link: https://www.local10.com/news/local/2020/02/08/miami-mayors-former-top-aide-walks-out-of-jail-friday-night/

Carollo alleges that “Pedrosa was one of the original organizers of this anti-Democratic recall.”

This would be the second time the commissioner has worked to leverage the sex crimes case involving a minor. On Friday, after inviting himself to a police news conference about the case, Carollo said Pedrosa should never have been hired in the first place in light of an amended employment application that shows two DUI convictions in 2002 and 2009.

On Tuesday, Suarez disputed Carollo’s allegation, telling Local 10 News reporter Christina Vazquez that Pedrosa was not an “original organizer” of the recall effort as far as he is aware.

In a written statement Tuesday afternoon, Meléndez told Local 10 News: ”This is a shameless lie by a cornered and wounded career politician. Joe is desperate. Realizing now that this surging recall effort caught him unprepared, he is trying to discredit us. As he has done through his career, he’ll try to change the subject from his abuse of power and broken promises with outrageous and false statements. Joe Carollo lies. All the time. About everything. This is no different.”

City clerk records show the original petition by “Take Back Our City” was filed Jan. 30, prior to Pedrosa’s arrest last Friday.

A former Spanish-language local television reporter, Pedrosa was hired a year ago. When he told his boss early last week he had personal “misconduct” issues, the mayor asked for his resignation.

In a statement Friday, Suarez told Local 10 News in part, “The residents of Miami deserve the highest standards from municipal employees. I will always work to ensure that my administration delivers accountability and takes action to uphold those standards.”

“MIAMI POLITICS IS NO STRANGER TO DRAMA”

Vazquez caught up with District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell during a Miami Parking Authority news conference announcing the launch of “Revels,” a new shared electric moped company.

She asked him about morale in the City of Miami in light of back-to-back drama from the January city commission meeting that ended abruptly due to bickering, the resignation of the city manager, the arrest of the mayor’s former communications director, and now the Carollo recall efforts.

“Miami politics is no stranger to drama,” Russell said. “This city is very resilient.”

Russell believes gains in addressing issues of affordable housing, transit and sea level rise are now being overshadowed by some of these negative developments.

He added that he is looking forward to working on selecting a new city manager who the commission can work with.

Vazquez also tried speaking on camera with the mayor, but he left the press event without giving any comment on camera.

According to a City of Miami spokeswoman, no commissioner or mayor in Miami has ever been recalled.

Carollo was elected in November 2017 and will be up for re-election in November 2021.


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