Feb 2, 2024 - News

Embattled Miami mayor decries "coup attempt" amid ethics investigations

City of Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez speaks during his 2024 State of the City address

City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez speaks during his 2024 state of the city address. Photo: Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez claimed victory against an ethics complaint this week, but he remains in a swirling storm of scrutiny over gifts and business dealings.

What's happening: The Florida Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint against Suarez on Wednesday that alleged he improperly received a city-funded security detail during his ill-fated presidential campaign.

Yes, but: The complaint is just one of several investigations Suarez is facing, including a separate case before the state board and a probe by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office and the county ethics commission

What he's saying: In a statement this week, Suarez claimed the dismissal "exposes the coordinated coup attempt that radical liberal activists, political mercenaries, and their allies in the local leftist media have perpetrated in the City of Miami."

  • He went on to denounce the "false and negative attacks," calling them a "vicious, dishonest smear campaign."

The other side: Miami activist Thomas Kennedy, who filed the now-dismissed state complaint, called Suarez's statement "Trumpian" and tells Axios the mayor is "trying to pretend that he's off the hook" while the ethics board is investigating a separate complaint Kennedy filed.

The intrigue: That complaint alleges Suarez improperly accepted expensive tickets to last year's Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix and the World Cup in 2022.

  • Kennedy, a former Democratic National Committee member, says he lodged the complaints as a concerned citizen, not as a paid operative as he says Suarez has alleged.

"It's not a conspiracy," Kennedy said.

  • "No, we just think you suck."

The latest: The state ethics commission completed its investigation into the second complaint in January, according to an email shared with Axios.

  • A commission meeting has been tentatively scheduled for March to determine the outcome.

The big picture: Robert Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, says the ethics commission is notoriously "toothless," and he believes the State Attorney's Office has more power to investigate the mayor.

Regardless of whether Suarez broke any laws, his perceived conflicts of interest have already damaged his reputation, Jarvis says.

  • "I think he has now shown himself to be untrustworthy, that there will always be questions swirling about his activity."
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