Former Doral mayor resigns from ethics board after endorsing City Council candidate

Former Doral Mayor J.C. Bermudez.
Former Doral Mayor J.C. Bermudez. El Nuevo Herald File

Former Doral Mayor J.C. Bermudez — who was selected to serve on Miami-Dade County’s ethics commission in May — resigned Friday after a complaint was received by the commission’s executive director, his resignation letter said.

“It has come to my attention that individuals representing the interests of certain elected officials and candidates in the city of Doral have complained to the executive director of my involvement in public campaigns,” Bermudez’s letter said.

In the letter, Bermudez said he was unaware that the “enabling ordinance that created the ethics commission precludes members from participating and contributing to political campaigns and from supporting candidates for political office, referendums or ballot questions.”

“Thus, it is with a heavy heart that I am advising you of my resignation, effective immediately,” Bermudez said in the letter.

According to Section 2-1069 of the county code of ordinances, “No individual, while a member of the ethics commission, shall hold or campaign for any elective political office; actively participate in or contribute to any political campaign or political action committee; allow his or her name to be used by a campaign in support of or against any candidate for political office or any referendum or other ballot question.”

Bermudez publicly supports incumbent Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera — Pete Cabrera’s opponent running for Seat 2 on the City Council.

“I’m not giving up my First Amendment rights to support who I wish,” he said. “So, I resigned.”

Robert Meyers, an attorney with the city of Doral, told the Miami Herald Monday that he had sent an email to the ethics commission’s executive director Joseph M. Centorino last week with material City Attorney Dan Espino told him to send to him.

“Attached is an audio file (in English) and a YouTube video (in Spanish),” Meyers said in an email to Centorino. “Let me know if you have any trouble opening them.”

Meyers said “the material was a YouTube video and an audio file of J.C. Bermudez, where he appears to be involved some campaigning.”

According to an Oct. 23 email, Espino wrote to Meyers, which would then be forwarded to Centorino:

“Attached, you will find an audio file that clearly has Bermudez endorsing one of Doral’s council members. Additionally, if you follow the link, you will see a video where Bermudez ‘testifies’ to Councilwoman Rodriguez Aguilera’s skills and service.”

Meyers, a former executive director of the ethics commission, declined to say “which council member disclosed that information to Dan Espino.”

Espino did not return phone messages left by the Miami Herald on Monday.

“I have a relationship with the director so I just forward information and let them decide whether or not they’re going to investigate it,” Meyers said.

Bermudez told the Herald he thinks the complaint was brought to Espino by Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz, who he said was approached by Cabrera in hopes of him halting his endorsement of Rodriguez Aguilera.

“Obviously Mr. Cabrera had a problem with it and went to Sandra who then went to Espino, then Robert Meyers,” Bermudez said. “But anyhow, I’m supporting Bettina and I’m not going to turn over my endorsements.”

Neither Cabrera nor Ruiz returned messages left by the Miami Herald on Monday.

Bermudez was one of the city’s founders and its mayor during the first nine years of existence. He was sworn in on May 27 as a commissioner on the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. He is a former president of the Miami-Dade County League of Cities, the organization that appointed him to the ethics commission.

“I’m sorry to lose him,” Centorino said. “He brought a good perspective to the commission with his experience as a former pubic official and attorney.”

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