MIAMI – Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo wanted all the attention on him during a special meeting Friday at City Hall. Those who know him say he has had the tendency to throw tantrums from behind the dais when an election is approaching — and this year isn’t any different.
The 66-year-old career politician, who was six when he left Cuba and a teenager when he was admitted to Florida International University, has been involved in local politics since the late 1970s. The son of a teacher and an electrician was a police officer briefly before launching a security business.
Carollo became a Miami commissioner at 24. He has had conflicts with police chiefs, city managers, and mayors before. In the early 1980s, the former Miami Police Chief Kenneth Harms wrote an infamous memo referring to Carollo as “transparently corrupt” and conspiratorial.
Carollo doubled crossed his then mentor, former Mayor Maurice Antonio Ferré, of Puerto Rico. He supported his opponent: Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s father, Xavier Suarez, a Harvard graduate who became Miami’s first Cuban-American mayor in 1985.
Carollo was 41 when he was elected Miami’s 47th mayor in July 1996 after Miami Mayor Steve Clark died of cancer. In 1997, he won a majority of the votes cast at polling places, but when the absentee ballots were counted he lost to Xavier Suarez.
Months later, Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson cited absentee ballot fraud. The appeals court disqualified thousands of absentee ballots for Xavier Suarez and reinstated Carollo as mayor. He served until 2001.
Former Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado released a statement during a campaign accusing Carollo of using city resources “to intimidate his political opponents.”
Carollo’s tirades went national during the Elián González custody dispute in 2000. He was enraged with U.S. authorities who ruled the 5-year-old boy had to be returned to his father in Cuba after his mother died while trying to get him to Miami.
In 2001, Carollo was arrested for domestic violence after throwing a teapot at his wife. His attorney claimed he didn’t mean to hurt her. Carollo underwent anger management therapy and the case was dropped. This didn’t kill his political career.
In 2013, former Doral Mayor Luigi Boria nominated Carollo as Doral’s city manager and the council approved it — and fired him about 15 months later. He was reinstated in 2017 and resigned soon after. That same year, he registered his political committee Miami First.
Ferré died in 2019. While Carollo had the support of a group of local real estate developers, fundraising hasn’t been a problem. He will be running for reelection in November against Rodney Quinn Smith, an attorney, and Adriana Oliva, the owner of a marketing firm.
During Friday’s special commission meeting, very little got done. Carollo focused on his new target: Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo who Mayor Francis Suarez hired to reform the department and not without protest from The Miami Fraternal Order of Police.
Acevedo recently wrote a memo to the mayor with accusations that aren’t new to Carollo. Acevedo reported he had received a notification of a felony warrant by a Monroe County Judge for Frank Pichel, a former Miami officer and mayoral candidate. Pichel is accused of impersonating a law enforcement officer.
“I understand that Pichel works or has worked as a Private Investigator gathering ‘dirt’ for Commissioner Carollo and other elected officials,” Acevedo wrote in his memo, adding Carollo met with FOP during a budget meeting to target his reform plans.
“Absolutely never have I hired Mr. Pichel as a private investigator, nor have I used Mr. Pichel to be a private investigator for me without paying him,” Carollo said.
Carollo has the support of Commissioners Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Manolo Reyes, who Acevedo also included in his memo. During Friday’s public meeting, Carollo said Acevedo needs to “shut his big mouth.”
Read Acevedo’s memo