The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust has sued Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez for trying to pay a $4,000 fine with 28 buckets of pennies and nickels, the commission said Wednesday.
The Commission also doubled the fine imposed on Hernandez, saying that he intentionally broke its regulations by sending the 360,000 coins even though he knew the panel accepts only checks.
“On November 6th, the Mayor sent 28 buckets of coins [along with several television crews] in an apparent attempt to pay the fine in disregard of the COE requirement that it be paid by check,” the commission said in a statement. “His ploy was deemed commercially unreasonable and contemptuous by COE staff, and therefore, rejected.”
“A small claims complaint was filed in County Court. A hearing was set for Dec. 9 to address the Mayor’s non-compliance,” the statement added.
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Hernandez’ office did not respond to El Nuevo Herald’s request for comment on the panel’s decision. The mayor has called the complaints against him “a political circus” and described members of the commission as “clowns.”
“We tried to pay with U.S. currency and it makes no difference whether they are pennies or nickels … but the coins were not accepted,” Hernandez told El Nuevo Herald earlier this month. “They can go to court if they want, but they are going to have to show why a public entity does not accept this country’s money.”
The commission ruled in July that Hernandez lied to citizens — in both Spanish and English — about his charge of usurious interest rates on a $180,000 loan to jewelry salesman Luis Felipe “Felipito” Perez, jailed in a massive pyramid scheme fraud. The panel fined the mayor $3,000 plus $1,000 for the costs of the investigation.
Perez pocketed about $40 million from various people, including Health politicians like Hernandez, through a fraudulent scheme in which investors were supposed to receive 36 percent in annual interest, according to authorities.
When the case became public in 2010, Hernandez, then campaigning for the county mayor’s seat, asserted that Perez had paid him only part of the capital he had invested. But last year, when he testified in a federal court case against his predecessor as mayor, Julio Robaina, Hernandez acknowledged that he received more than $100,000 in interest payments from Perez.
Follow Brenda Medina on Twitter: @BrendaMedinar