MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – After turning himself in to authorities Tuesday, new court documents revealed the extent of corruption allegations against Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez.
The longtime elected official faces two felony counts: unlawful compensation and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation.
Investigators say Martinez received money from a Miami-Dade business owner in exchange for crafting legislation that would have helped that business avoid several code violations.
According to an arrest affidavit, the allegations date back to when Martinez was re-elected to the county commission back in 2016, following a four-year hiatus.
Martinez “knowingly and intentionally accepted money from Jorge Negrin, the owner and operator of Extra Supermarket… in consideration for Martinez using his official position and office to assist with code enforcement fines and fees,” investigators wrote.
Those fees related to several storage containers that were illegally being kept on the supermarket’s property, according to investigators. Martinez later proposed legislation that would have allowed those containers to remain there, but ultimately it never passed.
Martinez didn’t take questions when he bonded out of jail Tuesday.
Commissioner walks out of jail
“When I have a chance to talk to you, I’ll talk to all of you,” Martinez said to journalists gathered at the jail. “Right now, I’m just gonna go and just deal with it.”
Through his attorney, Martinez, a former county police officer, has dismissed the charges as politically-motivated, claiming that Democratic State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is targeting him because he is seen as a Republican frontrunner for the newly-created position of Miami-Dade sheriff in 2024.
“For now, Commissioner Martinez makes clear that he is innocent of any wrongdoing and intends to aggressively work to clear his name,” attorney Ben Kuehne said.
Rundle held a news conference Tuesday detailing the charges.
“In its simplest form, this case involves this public official using his office for personal benefit,” she said.
She also pushed back on Martinez’s attorneys contention that the charges relate to deals the commissioner made as a private citizen, rather than a public official.
“The evidence for the monies we’re talking about, the evidence for these show that it was not a private deal,” Rundle said.
The county’s inspector general, Felix Jimenez, explained the timing for the decision.
“Numerous witness statements, the analysis of that hundreds if not thousands of financial records, these things take time,” Jimenez said.
Martinez is likely to be suspended from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis, although no decision was immediately announced on that.