A day after the Miami-Dade County Ethics Commission refused to accept payment for a $4,000 fine in pennies and nickels, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández said the commission should go to court to solve the problem.
Hernández sent a truck on Thursday with 28 buckets filled with pennies and nickels to the commission in downtown Miami to settle a fine for lying about his business activities with convicted Ponzi schemer Luis Felipe Pérez, popularly known as Felipito.
The commission refused the mayor’s payment, saying it can only take checks.
“We went to pay with United States currency, regardless of whether they are one-cent or five-cent coins … but they didn’t accept the payment,” Hernández said. “If they wish [the commission] can go to court, but they will have to explain why a public organization does not accept this country’s currency.”
Commission staffers asked Hernández’s messengers on Thursday to take the buckets with them or they would call the police. The buckets contained $3,500 in pennies and $500 in nickels.
On Friday, Hernández called the commission “a political circus.” When asked about his ridiculing an organization that had investigated him, he said: “I don’t have to do anything to mock them, they are themselves demonstrating the clowns they are.”
In July, the commission found Hernández guilty of lying to the public — both in Spanish and in English — about collecting interest on a $180,000 loan to Pérez. The commission fined the mayor $3,000 plus $1,000 for the cost of the investigation.
I don’t have to do anything to mock them, they are themselves demonstrating the clowns they are.
Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández
Pérez swindled investors out of about $40 million, among them Hialeah politicians such as the mayor, in a pyramid scheme in which investors, according to the authorities, collected an illegally high annual interest rate of 36 percent. The case became public in 2010.
At that time, amid his campaign for mayor, Hernández told the media that he had only received payment for the principal amount he loaned to Pérez. But last year, testifying for the prosecution in a federal case against his predecessor, former mayor Julio Robaina, Hernández admitted he had received more than $100,000 in interest from Pérez, contradicting his own statements in a news conference in 2010.
The 28 buckets filled with coins ended up back at the Hialeah mayor’s office on Thursday.
On Friday, Hernández said the ethics commission’s budget should be used in a more effective manner and be reassigned to the FBI’s local corruption unit, which could then hire 15 to 20 new agents.
“What I am showing here is that that agency, under the name of Ethics Commission, is a political committee,” Hernández said. “I am unmasking them and showing what they really are: a bunch of clowns, bureaucrats taking money away from citizens.”
Pennies by the ton
The 28 buckets of coins delivered by Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández to the county ethics commission contained 350,000 pennies and 10,000 nickels. By weight, that’s more than a ton — 2,038 pounds — of pennies and 110 pounds of nickels.