‘Joe Carollo has to go’: Groups urge commissioner’s ouster, criminal probe after $63M verdict

MIAMI – A number of former elected officials, business owners, activists and community members joined forces Tuesday and called on Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo to resign or be removed from office after a jury found him liable last week for violating the rights of two businessmen, handing down a $63 million judgement.

They held a news conference at Miami City Hall in Coconut Grove following Carollo’s legal loss to Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla.

“Enough is enough,” Marvin Tapia, an organizer for Viernes Culturales, said. Plaintiffs said the group was among those targeted by Carollo.

Some of the witnesses who testified on behalf of Fuller and Pinilla appeared at Tuesday’s press event. That included Daniel Figueredo, the owner of Sanguich de Miami, who, along with business partner Rosa Romero, testified during the trial to “blatantly obvious” harassment at the hands of the commissioner.

“Joe Carollo robbed us of our times, our dreams and financially destroyed us,” Figueredo said. “Joe Carollo is not a good example of what a public servant is and should be. He lacks the compassion, he lacks the professionalism and the basic skills to lead.”

Attendees held handmade signs protesting Carollo’s continued presence in office as speakers called for his ouster.

“We have earned the reputation as a banana republic,” Coconut Grove resident Nathan Kurland said. “We need a change in leadership.”

Speakers called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to remove Carollo from office if he doesn’t resign.

“The fact that there are not criminal charges yet would not prevent the governor from making that choice,” Miami-area attorney David Winker said, emphasizing that he believes the allegations in the lawsuit “if true, are criminal.”

Others echoed the assertion that Carollo’s conduct was criminal.

Political activist Thomas Kennedy called on federal prosecutors to convene a grand jury to investigate Carollo, who he said has “for decades has been living off the tit of government and has done nothing but use and abuse” his power, and other members of Miami’s city government.

“We learned from the trial that Joe Carollo did not act alone,” Kennedy said. “There were other people in city government that were complicit in his criminal conduct.”

Carollo, for his part, appeared on a local Spanish-language television station Monday night, calling the verdict fee “absurd” and a “lie” and saying the city of Miami should be “lucky” to have him.

“Well we should decide that, if we’re lucky or not,” Tapia responded during Tuesday’s news conference. “The job title is public servant, we decide. It’s our opinion if we’re lucky to have him. But just that statement says so much about him and how he runs his office.”

Carollo compared his civil case to that of O.J. Simpson and George Floyd, pointing out that the guilty parties in those cases had to pay much less in damages even though they committed far more heinous crimes.

He also responded to the calls for DeSantis to remove him from office.

“The governor understands well what is happening here,” Carollo said.

About the Authors:

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

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.