Joe Carollo was ineligible to run for Miami commission, opponent claims in a lawsuit

Miami District 3 Commissioner-elect Joe Carollo (left) and losing candidate Alfonso “Alfie” Leon.
Miami District 3 Commissioner-elect Joe Carollo (left) and losing candidate Alfonso “Alfie” Leon. Miami Herald

Hours before losing a contentious election Tuesday night to former Miami mayor Joe Carollo, District 3 commission candidate Alfonso “Alfie” Leon filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate Carollo’s candidacy.

Leon, who quietly filed an emergency complaint Monday on the eve of the election, claims that Carollo failed to meet Miami’s residency requirements, which demand that candidates live within the district they seek to represent for at least one year before the deadline to qualify to make the ballot. In Miami, the deadline this year was Sept. 23.

Carollo’s lease for Apt. 504 at Brickell Station Lofts shows he made the cut by a day.

The former mayor had lived in a Coconut Grove home on Morris Lane since 2001, but leased his West Brickell apartment within District 3 boundaries on Sept. 22, 2016. He paid with a $7,000 cashier’s check, which along with the lease was given to Miami’s city clerk in September when Carollo qualified to make the ballot.

Carollo has indeed held the apartment for many months. He met a Miami Herald reporter there in early 2017 to talk about the election and go over his lease.

There are no concerns. My attorneys will take care of it

Joe Carollo

But Leon claims Carollo didn’t actually move into the apartment until October, at the earliest. In an echo of allegations made Friday in a news conference outside Carollo’s Coconut Grove house, Leon attorney Juan-Carlos Planas alleged in the complaint that Carollo failed to meet residency requirements because he didn’t change his voter registration until October, or his driver’s license address until January. Carollo changed the address in late December, according to state records.

“This is another joke from the Leon campaign,” said Carollo, who learned about the complaint from a Miami Herald reporter. “There are no concerns. My attorneys will take care of it.”

Carollo, who unofficially beat Leon by 251 votes, can be sworn in as early as Dec. 2. But it’s possible the lawsuit, which names Carollo, elections supervisor Christina White and city clerk Todd Hannon as defendants, could linger past that date.

Leon could not be reached Tuesday night. Planas declined to comment.

Carollo called the lawsuit a “Hail Mary.” He said he’s looking forward to deposing Leon, whom he has accused of voter fraud and attacking him in a campaign of lies funded by lobbyists.

“Is this the way that we do things in America? That when you know you’re going to lose an election you file? You would have thought that if I truly didn’t live in the district they would have filed this way before, not the day of the election,” Carollo said. “It’s too little, too late.”

Miami Herald staff writer Elizabeth Koh contributed to this report.