Miami Beach

Politician faces ethics complaint after defending donor accused of hacking fire alarms

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez
Kristen Rosen Gonzalez

Miami Beach Commissioner and congressional candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez is facing an ethics complaint after she tried to dissuade police from investigating a campaign donor accused of destroying fire alarms in his neighborhood with a machete.

Frank Kruszewski, a South Beach resident, submitted a complaint to the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust last week after the Miami New Times reported on emails that show Rosen Gonzalez suggesting police should back off the accused, Erik Agazim, and should instead investigate Kruszewski, a neighbor whom she believed reported Agazim.

“I feel strongly there is sufficient evidence here attached as to warrant an investigation into Commissioner Rosen Gonzalez actions with respect to attempting to use her office to influence, redirect and otherwise interject herself into an on-going criminal investigation,” Kruszewski wrote in a statement to ethics investigators, which he provided to the Miami Herald.

Agazim, 41, is facing a dozen felony charges connected to the destruction of 11 fire alarms in the Sunset Harbour South condo tower. Police say Agazim, who owns a firearms supply company, was seen walking around his building in tactical gear Sept. 15 and hacking at fire alarms that had been wailing since Hurricane Irma made landfall a few days earlier.

He was arrested Sept. 22. He has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is set for April.

Agazim sought help from Rosen Gonzalez on the day of the incident. Hours after getting a text message from Agazim, Rosen Gonzalez defended him in an email to Police Chief Dan Oates. She also asked to sit in on a police interview with Agazim, which Oates said would be inappropriate.

“If anyone should be arrested, it should be Frank Kruszewski who is sending the police on wild goose chases,” Rosen Gonzalez wrote.

On Thursday, Rosen Gonzalez said she didn’t know about the fire alarm allegations against Agazim when she emailed the chief.

“Erik Agazim didn’t tell me the truth,” she said, adding that she does not believe ethics investigators will be conducting an inquiry because she did nothing wrong.

“I was just trying to help him like I would help any citizen,” she said. “As soon as I was told there was a problem, I stepped away.”

Kruszewski said in his statement that he first learned of the fire alarm incident during an Oct. 20 phone call with Rosen Gonzalez, when she apologized for telling police to direct the investigation toward him instead of Agazim.

These petty complaints and hype take away from the broad picture of who I am and the people I represent.

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez

In his complaint to the ethics commission, Kruszewski quoted Rosen Gonzalez as saying that she based her email to the police chief on statements by Agazim, “repeatedly apologized” to Kruszewski for implicating him and asked him not to contact police to set the record straight.

After reading news reports on the emails, Kruszewski noticed Rosen Gonzalez’s comments about him were stronger than he thought.

“What Commissioner Rosen-Gonzalez failed to tell me on Oct. 20 was that she suggested that the Miami Beach Police Department arrest me instead of Mr. Agazim,” Kruszewski wrote in his complaint.

Joe Centorino, executive director of the ethics commission, said he could not comment on any pending matter in his office.

“If any complaint is found to warrant an investigation, we would certainly investigate it further,” he said.

Rosen Gonzalez is running as a Democrat to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional district. Agazim donated $2,700 to her campaign in May.

On Wednesday, Rosen Gonzalez insisted her defense of Agazim had nothing to do with the donation, which she gave to a fund for victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October.

“It doesn’t matter if someone donated to my campaign or not,” she said. “I’m an equal opportunity public servant.”

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech