The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Trust held a public hearing Tuesday to determine whether Miami City Commissioner Frank Carollo used or intended to exploit his position by calling the Miami Police chief after he was pulled over for a traffic violation.
No decision was made at the public hearing, which began at 9 a.m. and ran until noon.
Chief Manuel Orosa and the officer who conducted the August 2012 traffic stop, John Blackerby, both testified before the commission that they felt as if Carollo was not using his influence as commissioner to get out of the traffic ticket.
Carollo did not testify at Tuesday's hearing. But he told reporters afterward that he doesn't think much of his accuser, government watchdog Al Crespo, who filed a complaint insisting Carollo peddled his influence as a commissioner to get out of the ticket.
“Only in Miami does a twice-convicted armed bank robber worry about who receives a traffic citation,” Carollo said.
Crespo heard Carollo’s comments and responded, “That has nothing to do with it, I haven't robbed a bank in 35 years, I have been out of prison for 30 years.”
Last August Carollo was driving in Coconut Grove, near the intersection of Tigertail and Aviation avenues. A city recycling truck was blocking the roadway, the commissioner passed the truck, allegedly crossing a double yellow line, and then got pulled over by a police officer, investigators said.
Investigators found that the commissioner phoned the police chief during the traffic stop, asking him to find out "what the problem was."
Orosa testified that Carollo never asked for preferential treatment, and Blackerby said Carollo’s clout as commissioner had nothing to do with letting him off with a warning.
But Crespo disagrees, saying the commissioner certainly peddled his influence to get out of the ticket.
“A sitting city commissioner, to personally call the chief of police, in the midst of a traffic ticket,” he said. “This was not a community issue, this was a personal issue as was raised in this testimony.”
Just before Carollo was about to testify, a commissioner was getting ready to leave, and they did not want to split his testimony into two different sessions, so commissioners decided to pick a later date to hear his testimony. They will pick a date during the next regular ethics commission meeting on Sept 12.
If ethics commissioners determine Carollo did use or intend to exploit his position, it would be a violation of the Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance.
Last year, ethics commissioners released a report that said probable cause was found that Carollo exploited his position.
Carollo said, however, that he never asked for special treatment or expressed concern with the officer's stop.