Little Havana developers allege commissioner is using code enforcement as political retaliation

Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla's lawsuit alleges that Joe Carollo violated their right to free speech after they supported his opponent

Ball & Chain, Bill Fuller and Joe Carollo
Ball & Chain, Bill Fuller and Joe Carollo

Late-night stakeouts, targeting businesses, and circumventing city procedure are among the allegations Barlington Group principals Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla are making against Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo.

Fuller and Pinilla are suing Corollo in federal court, alleging the commissioner violated their right to free speech, using code enforcement to retaliate against them for supporting his opponent, Alfie Leon, in last year’s election, according to the Miami Herald. They’re seeking $2.5 million in damages, including for shutting down “Sanguich,” a restaurant built out of a rehabbed shipping container.

Barlington owns stakes in at least 40 commercial properties in Little Havana, the majority of which can be found along Southwest Eighth Street. Fuller is also a co-owner of the popular nightclub Ball & Chain.

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According to the suit, former city employees have admitted they felt pressured by Carollo to target Fuller-owned businesses. In one grievance, his former aide, Steve Miró, said Carollo wanted him to lie to ethic investigators about code complaints.

Carollo has denied telling city employees to target Barlington’s properties and tenants, but defended his late-night visits to Ball & Chain’s valet parking operation. He also denied that he’s acted in retaliation for their support of his opponent.

On Thursday, someone attempted to serve Carollo the lawsuit during a Miami commission meeting, but City Attorney Victoria Mendez told the person to leave.

“Who are you? A process server? Get out. You can’t do that here,” she said. “You can wait outside. You can’t do that here. Get out.” [Miami Herald] – Amanda Rabines

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