Ex-commissioner warns Miami taxpayers could end up paying $63M Carollo verdict

Current commissioner dismisses idea: ‘Out of the question’

MIAMI – A former Miami city commissioner is warning that taxpayers could end up footing the bill for his ex-colleague’s massive legal judgment.

Commissioner Joe Carollo lost a marathon federal civil trial Thursday after two Little Havana businessmen sued him, claiming he violated their First Amendment rights by retaliating against them for supporting his political opponent.

A jury agreed, awarding Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla $63 million in damages.

Fellow Commissioner Manolo Reyes said Friday he thinks since the judgement was against Carollo, Carollo should be the one paying up, saying “$63 million is out of the question.”

Ex-Commissioner Ken Russell said he thinks Miami taxpayers could wind up opening up their collective checkbook.

“If Commissioner Carollo and the city attorney can convince two other commissioners to pay this bill, it will be paid,” Russell said.

Taxpayers are already on the hook for Carollo’s nearly $2 million and counting in legal fees.

There’s no guarantee that Carollo will ever end up owing $63 million, however. His attorneys are certain to appeal the verdict and the damages, meaning the dollar amount could be reduced — possibly significantly — or the case could be thrown out entirely.

A similar lawsuit, but this time filed against the city, is going through the state court system.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has yet to comment on Thursday’s verdict. Carollo wasn’t at his Coconut Grove home when Local 10 News stopped by seeking comment Friday.

Russell called on Carollo to either step down from office or be removed under the city’s charter.

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.