According to a Miami-Dade Ethics Commission Report posted online by Theo Karantsalis, the Mayor of Miami Springs and the Miami Springs City Clerk, may have violated Florida State Election Law during the qualifying process of the most recent election.
To put it simply, Florida Law states that a candidate must (A) open a bank account and (B) appoint a campaign treasurer BEFORE acquiring petition signatures.
Heres the exact language from Florida State Statute 99.095 (2)(a),
Signatures may not be obtained until the candidate has filed the appointment of campaign treasurer and designation of campaign depository pursuant to s. 106.021 and are valid only for the qualifying period immediately following such filings.
The Ethics Commission Report includes an interview with Miami Police Detective, Sgt. Sergio Diez, who investigated the complaint. Heres a portion of what he found:
The alleged violation is fairly simple. Garcia filed to run for re-election with the City Clerks office on Jan. 12, 2015. Among his initial paperwork, Garica submitted form DS-DE 9, where a candidate identifies a treasurer and certifies the opening of a campaign bank account.
He further states:
The timeline and the paper trail are clear:
– Jan. 12, 2015: Garcia filed the campaign treasury form DS-DE 9 with the city clerks office;
– Jan. 14, 2015: Garcia submitted 103 petition signatures to the city clerks office. All of the signatures except one were dated prior to Jan. 12, 2015 (the first was signed on Nov. 29, 2014 and the last on Jan. 6, 2015)
In other words, Garcia got his signatures before he filed his bank account and assigned his treasurer pursuant to Florida State Law.
The City Clerk is the Election Official in charge of following and enforcing the rules. She had an opportunity to disqualify the signatures in January which would have given Garcia plenty of time to fix his problem. However, she did not disqualify the signatures and deemed Garcia a qualified candidate despite the conflict with Florida Election Laws.
Garcias mayoral opponent, Fernando Fred Suco, sent a letter to the City Clerk alerting her to the conflict with Florida State Law prior to election day. However, the City Clerk deemed Mayor Garcia a qualified candidate despite the conflict.
The conclusion from the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission Report states:
While the facts may indicate a violation of Chap. 99.095 (2)(a), this matter is outside of the Commission on Ehtics jurisdiction, nor is it a matter that we would refer to the state elections commission, whose jurisdictioin is limited to violations of Chaps. 104 and 106 not Chap. 99. A candidate wishing to challenge the process in question has the option of inititating civil legal action
Theo Karantsalis reported on Saturday that Fred Suco filed a lawsuit against the city on Friday.
Both the City Clerk and the City Attorney have not returned emails requesting justification for Garcia`s qualification.
Well keep you posted as this story develops.