One of the lawyers representing the effort to recall Miami city commissioner Joe Carollo was the focus of an anonymous research packet emailed to several high ranking city leaders.
So far, it’s led to the attorney, David Winker, being cited by the code department for having an illegal home office. Winkler says he’s being retaliated against for his legal work against the city.
While telling NBC 6 over the phone, “David Winker is a sc**bag, and you can quote me on that,” Commissioner Joe Carollo says he has nothing to do with the code violation or with the anonymous complaint packet.
“It seems like it’s just pure harassment. But do I have any evidence that it’s Joe Carollo? Not at all and I’ve never said it was Joe Carollo. It’s consistent behavior and it’s a hell of coincidence,” said Winker.
Many are now working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. The Director of Code Compliance with the city, Adele Valencia, tells NBC 6 inspectors have issued twenty-four code violations for running businesses out of residential homes without having proper paperwork with the city.
Code enforcement responds to complaints and the anonymous research packet on Winker was the latest. Valencia tells NBC 6 they treated this as any other case.
Winker has a history with Miami. Besides representing the Carollo recall effort, he recently filed suit and defeated the city over the number of lobbyists the city had on a zoning oversight board.
Over the weekend, a city inspector left a notice stating his Miami home had six violations, including: failure to follow requirements of a home occupation businesses, failure to get a valid certificate of use for the type of businesses conducted, failure to obtain a business tax receipt for the type of business conducted, illegally operating a business in a residential zone, and work performed without a permit and permit not finalized.
Fines could be up to $525 a day. For the claim of operating a business at his home, the punishment could be jail time.
The notice said there was an inspection but NBC 6 uncovered all the investigative work was done online.
“I was mailed an anonymous complaint with a lot of facts and details and evidence that were then investigated and vetted. And what that revealed from the preponderance of the evidence revealed Mr. Winker was running his law firm from his home,” Valencia said.
According to city inspectors, Winker does not list his office address on the Florida Bar website or on the Sunbiz website for the Department of State. Instead, he lists his home address in Miami.
That was enough for a violation, according to the city.
“If there is some evidence to the contrary, I’m eager to hear from Mr. Winker and to correct our mistake,” said Valencia, “But, I believe the violation was issued correctly.”
“Unfortunately the city received a complaint with information on several code violations at Winker’s home. The city has processed the complaint as it would any other code complaint. Mr. Winker is sensationalizing the review by code compliance as he does with all his dealings with the city,” said Victoria Mendez, the City of Miami Attorney.
Winker tells NBC 6 he is only working from home because the pandemic closed the Coral Gables office he normally works at.
“Unless they want to sit at my kitchen table, I’ve never had a client visit me here. I have a normal law practice at a normal office,” said Winker.
Winker tells NBC 6 he’ll go through the process to fight the violations and to find out more about the anonymous complaint packet, believing the notice was selected enforcement because he says he knows of city employees and local commissioners who also list their home address online at Sunbiz and the Florida Bar website.
City inspectors claim Winker built an exterior structure without all the proper permits; a claim he also plans to fight through the city’s civil process.
This also raises the issue for many people in Miami who are now working from home. If CPAs, lawyers, or businesses owners are now operating out of their homes, they still need to comply with ordinances. That could mean paying the City of Miami $79 for an accessory use certificate and $131 for a business tax receipt.
“Unless you are running an unlicensed or unpermitted business from your home, you do not have to worry about simply working from home during the pandemic. Per the complaint it seems Mr. Winker runs his full service law firm from his home. He has no other place of business according to Florida Bar records,” said Mendez.