The FBI is investigating former Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño’s connections to a towing company and its dealings in his own city and Doral.
FBI agents have questioned local officials, police officers and others about Southland The Towing Company, which Maroño once owned while he was serving as mayor, focusing on whether there has been any official misconduct related to the towing of cars and payment of fines.
The FBI’s Miami regional office declined to comment about the existence of an investigation.
Southland, which public records show was formerly owned by Maroño in 2009, struck an “oral agreement” that year to tow cars in Sweetwater, although city has been unable to provide any records about this deal.
Records show that Maroño also represented Southland The Towing Company during negotiations with the city of Doral, where the towing business operated through a pilot program that began in July 2009 and ended just weeks after his August arrest in a federal corruption case.
The former Sweetwater mayor said on Wednesday through his mother that he has had nothing to do with the company since 2009. On Monday, Maroño said he was never involved in the business. But in March 2010, Doral’s manager at the time, Yvonne Soler-McKinley, wrote a letter to Maroño confirming the details of the city’s agreement with Southland.
Maroño “was probably just helping Robert [Muriedas] get business,” said attorney Alexander Fox, who represents Muriedas, the company’s current owner.
Maroño wasn’t a registered lobbyist in the city of Doral.
The director of the Miami Dade Commission on Ethics, Joe Centorino, said he couldn’t comment on whether Maroño’s involvement with Southland was a conflict of interest, because he doesn’t have all the facts.
Soler-McKinley said this week that she didn’t know Maroño was involved with the company when she agreed to give it business towing cars in Doral through the pilot program.
“I don’t remember when I learned that Manny was involved in that company. That was three years ago,” she said. “I don’t know whether he had stock in the company or was its president.”
Although Soler-McKinley wrote the letter to Maroño, it was Muriedas who signed off on the terms.
El Nuevo Herald and CBS-4 obtained a copy of the letter on Wednesday, a day after Doral City Manager Joe Carollo unleashed a series of allegations against mayor Luigi Boria during a city council meeting.
Among Carollo’s accusations: Boria knew that Maroño was a “silent partner” in Southland when, in May, he introduced Carollo to a company representative who “was complaining that he was not getting sufficient towing” jobs in the city.
The mayor “wanted us to resolve that situation and to make sure he got sufficient towing from the city of Doral,” said Carollo, who suggested that he contacted authorities about Maroño’s involvement in the company after the May meeting.
Boria said he did not know the Southland representatives who showed up at his office one or what they wanted. He also said he didn’t know about Maroño’s involvement in the company.
“I am not really interested in people’s personal businesses,” Boria said on Wednesday. “What I did was take them to Carollo’s office and tell him that these gentlemen were looking for something.”