Miami Beach

Miami Beach candidate likens self to Gandhi, Mandela in campaign ad about ethics probes

Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez resigned in April 2018 in order to run for Congress. She is now running to get back on the city commission.
Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez resigned in April 2018 in order to run for Congress. She is now running to get back on the city commission. emichot@miamiherald.com

Miami Beach commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez has been investigated at least five times by the Florida Elections Commission and the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics.

This isn’t opposition research. This is what she’s using to raise money.

Rosen Gonzalez, a former commissioner, penned a campaign email Friday morning in which she said political disagreements are to blame for the “countless” investigations lodged against her since 2015.

In the email, which featured the subject line “I’ve been investigated five times!”, she likened opponents’ treatment of her to the persecution of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. She then plugged an upcoming fundraising event to feature Miami Beach luminaries like former Mayor Matti Bower.

“Without comparing myself to heroes, it’s interesting that throughout history, anyone with a differing position, from Galileo to Gandhi to Nelson Mandela, was dismissed by either throwing them in jail or having them killed,” she wrote. “Socrates drank poison hemlock after 500 of his fellow Athenians found him guilty of ‘refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state’ and of ‘corrupting the youth,’ sentencing him to death.”

Rosen Gonzalez, a candidate in the crowded Group IV commission race, has been the subject of at least four ethics complaints between 2015 and last April. The Florida Elections Commission inquired about her campaign in 2016 for allegedly missing a deadline to file a campaign treasurer’s report, but she was cleared, according to the FEC’s final order on the matter.

Friday’s campaign blast was purportedly meant to announce the endorsement of the Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police. But Rosen Gonzalez used it mostly as an opportunity to decry negative campaign mailers funded by a shadowy political committee based in Tampa — and to claim the investigations against her were part of a political conspiracy.

“I refuse to be forced to vote with the rest of the pack, and together, we should refuse to sell off Miami Beach piecemeal to a select few,” she wrote. “Over the next few weeks these attacks will continue, but please stand proud and strong with me.”

As she was quick to point out in the fundraising note, Rosen Gonzalez has not been found guilty in any of the complaints filed against her.

She was most recently cleared of an ethics case involving allegation that she lobbied senior city staff on behalf of three construction companies at an April 3 meeting at Roasters ‘N Toasters deli, according to a copy of the ethics commission’s investigative report obtained by the Miami Herald.

The case’s conclusion has not been reflected on the ethics commission’s accounting of final judgments, but Rosen Gonzalez provided the Herald with a copy of an investigative report filed by the commission on Saturday.

Rosen Gonzalez has not always found complete exoneration.

Last year, the ethics commission stated that Rosen Gonzalez used “poor judgment” when she asked then-Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates to lay off a campaign donor who would eventually be arrested for destroying fire alarms in Sunset Harbour South condo tower following Hurricane Irma.

The suspect, Erik Agazim, was allegedly seen walking around his building in tactical gear while using a machete to strike fire alarms that had been sounding off for several days.

The commission found that Rosen Gonzalez was unaware Agazim was under investigation for the fire-alarm incident when she defended him in an email to the police chief. Agazim had texted her a misleading message about the situation, the commission concluded. The body voted 3-1 to dismiss the case after determining there was not enough evidence to proceed.

Furthermore, three of the ethics complaints were filed by private citizens, not political opponents, according to the commission. Rosen Gonzalez did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Bower, who served as Miami Beach mayor from 2007-2013, said she is endorsing Rosen Gonzalez in the commission race because of her commitment to the will of the city’s residents and anti-development stance.

“She goes overboard every once in a while,” Bower said. “I like that. She’s spontaneous.”

Bower said establishment politicians have placed a target on Rosen Gonzalez’s back because she is willing to buck popular opinion during contested votes.

“She is investigated because she doesn’t go with the flow,” Bower said.

Clarification: A previous version of this article stated that Rosen Gonzalez had not been cleared in her most recent ethics complaint. The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics has not announced a final judgment in the case. Following publication of this article, Rosen Gonzalez provided the Herald with a copy of an investigative report closing the case.

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