Another business owner accuses Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo of misusing power

City closes Virginia Key Outdoor Center amid opposition to Carollo’s tiny home village for homeless

Another business owner accuses Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo of misusing his power.

MIAMI – Another business owner accuses Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo of misusing his power.

Esther Alonso doesn’t want the city to turn Virginia Key — enjoyed by nature lovers who rented paddle boards, kayaks, and bicycles from her business — into a homeless camp.

Surveillance video shows when police officers arrived on Friday afternoon at the Virginia Key Outdoor Center to shut it down and threaten Alonso.

“If you refuse to sign this form, then I have to take you to jail, physically,” a Miami police officer said.

Alonso said she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It was outrageous to her that a police officer would threaten to take someone to jail for refusing to sign a form.

The officers were with two inspectors from the Miami Code Enforcement Office who accused her of operating without a certificate of use and of owing more than $140,000 in past due rent.

Alonso, a city of Miami tenant, denied the accusations.

“I mailed in checks,” Alonso said, adding these appeared to have “disappeared” and that as a Cuban-American she was quickly able to recognize “the abuse of power.”

Carollo is spearheading a plan to build tiny homes in Virginia Key city property to move the homeless out of the urban areas. In July, commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of the pilot program. Commissioners Ken Russell and Manolo Reyes were the dissenting votes.

“I don’t know how they got these leases here,” Carollo told Local 10 News on July 29. “If they do have leases, she seems to be having a booming business, but I would like to see how much of that is going to the City of Miami that owns this.”

Before Alonso said to her it was obvious that Carollo was misusing his power over city employees, the commissioner faced similar accusations that resulted in lawsuits.

The owner of the Little Havana nightclub Ball and Chain, Bill Fuller, accused Carollo of misusing his power to punish him for supporting his political opponent.

Former Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo also accused Carollo of misusing the resources of the Miami Police Department “to carry out” his personal agendas.

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This Week In South Florida: Aug. 7

Last week Miami Dade County leaders blasted a proposal to house as many as 100 homeless people in a cluster of tiny homes on Virginia Key.

About the Authors:

Cody Weddle joined Local 10 News as a full-time reporter in South Florida in August of 2022. Before that, Cody worked regularly with Local 10 since January of 2017 as a foreign correspondent in Venezuela and Colombia.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.