Politics

No charges in Miami commissioner campaign bus bench ad probe

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Miami Commissioner Wifredo “Willy” Gort will not face charges related to 26 free bus bench ads given to him during his 2011 reelection campaign.

Miami-Dade prosecutors, in a final report released Monday, determined that Gort’s campaign did nothing wrong and that the company, Fuel Outdoor, routinely gave away free bus bench ads to all of their customers.

Back in 2011, Gort was running for reelection in District 1, which encompasses Miami’s Flagami and Allapattah neighborhoods. Reached Monday, Gort stressed his office fully cooperated with authorities.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents noted 26 bus bench ads — far more than the 10 his campaign paid $13,200 to display. The extra signs did not appear to be accounted for in campaign expense reports, a discrepancy that might have violated state law.

But Fuel Outdoor employees told agents it was common practice to throw in free extra bus bench ads for all clients, mostly to fill up unused space around town to make their business look good.

The company’s general manager told agents “they do not usually notify clients that they are getting all the extra signage because they will become accustomed to it and ask for additional free signage in future contracts.”

“According to the testimony and evidence, there is nothing to indicate the Gort campaign received any special treatment or benefit not otherwise afforded all clients of Fuel Outdoors,” according to a final report by the State Attorney’s Office.

Gort told investigators that he did not know particulars of the bus-bench ad campaign, including the free ads.

The probe did uncover a crime in a separate matter: misdemeanor violations by retired Goodwill President Dennis Pastrana, who pleaded guilty Monday to making campaign contributions in the name of another person.

The initial complaint against Gort came from former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

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