By Joey Flechas, Miami Herald
An appeals court has ordered the dismissal of a lawsuit that accused Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo of breaching a 2016 consultant contract he had with a company behind the Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel.
Carollo briefly worked with a Skyviews affiliate, Platinum Advisors, under a $125,000 contract before he successfully ran for office in 2017. At a 2019 commission meeting, Carollo pressured the company to share more of the wheel’s future revenues with the city. The wheel has since been built on city land leased to Bayside Marketplace.
The wheel proprietors said Carollo violated his previous consulting contract because he had insider knowledge of the company’s sales projections. After delays, the wheel company later won approvals from the commission, and the wheel is now open at Bayside.
Before the wheel company won those approvals, Platinum Advisors sued Carollo in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, and Carollo moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that he had legal immunity afforded to elected officials acting in their capacity as representatives of the government. The motion was denied, and Carollo appealed.
This week, a three-judge panel in the Third District Court of Appeal ruled in Carollo’s favor and ordered the lower court to dismiss the case.
“His former client’s project was on the agenda for the City Commission meeting, and Carollo participated in the discussion of the agenda item in his role as a City Commissioner,” reads the opinion. “Hence, irrespective of whether Carollo’s participation in the discussion was ethical, Carollo enjoyed both absolute legislative and qualified immunity from civil suit for the comments he made at that meeting.”
The panel wrote that while Platinum Advisors “may feel betrayed (and possibly were financially harmed) by” Carollo’s behavior, the commissioner was seeking a better financial deal for the city.
Carollo’s lawyer, Benedict Kuehne, said in a statement that the appellate case confirms that “elected officials can dedicate their actions to the public, and that private interests will not be able to second-guess official actions.”
The opinion left the door open for the wheel company to amend its lawsuit and bring other allegations to the circuit court. The company’s attorney, Benjamin Brodsky, said his team plans to make additional allegations against Carollo of bad faith conduct.
Based on what we know he did on and off the dais, that will be no problem,” Brodsky said. “It will send a shiver down your spine.”