Miami Herald (Sunday)

Florida ethics board plans hearing in Suarez’s gift case, tosses complaint about Miami cops

- BY SARAH BLASKEY sblaskey@miamiheral­

The state ethics commission dismissed a complaint against Miami Mayor Francis Suarez last week that raised concerns over his use of city police officers as his private security while traveling the country campaignin­g for president last year.

The Florida Commission on Ethics announced the decision in a press release Wednesday. The commission did not investigat­e the allegation­s against the mayor, which were based on reporting from the Miami New Times. Rather, the complaint was dismissed “for lack of legal sufficienc­y” — meaning, a review of the complaint determined that even if the allegation­s were true, the case would either not fall under the commission’s jurisdicti­on or the alleged activities would not amount to a violation of state ethics laws.

“There is a public purpose for the provision of protective services to a public officer, even when he travels,” the commission noted in its dismissal order. The complaint did not allege that Suarez had pressured city staff to allocate city resources for his security detail, the order noted. Absent such allegation­s of misconduct or corruption, the commission concluded that the city was within its right to provide a taxpayer-funded protection detail to the mayor.

Suarez is still the subject of a second, ongoing inquiry by the state ethics commission into his attendance at high-price sporting events, which has been the focus of some of the Miami Herald’s ongoing coverage. Ethics officials recently completed their months-long investigat­ion, and a hearing date is expected to be set in the coming weeks regarding that case.

The ongoing inquiry is based on a complaint made by the same person who filed the complaint that was dismissed last week. The dismissal will have no impact on the still-open case. The Herald has not previously reported on the dismissal of one of the complaints.

The mayor’s office put out a statement Wednesday evening touting the ethics commission’s recent decision to dismiss the complaint against him, saying it proved “once again that the mayor continues to act properly, following all laws and regulation­s.”

Suarez is facing multiple other investigat­ions into his business relationsh­ips, as well as calls for his resignatio­n over concerns he is using his public office for private gain. In a statement Wednesday morning, the Florida Democratic Party demanded that the mayor step down following a Herald report that the mayor’s office had pushed a no-bid city contract to benefit a partner of a company paying him $20,000 per month.

Suarez did not comment on the Herald’s reporting or the call for Suarez’s resignatio­n. But later that same day, the mayor’s office issued its statement about the ethics decision, which suggested the dis

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