Bill Fuller, Martin Pinilla seek Miami commissioner Joe Carollo’s ouster from office

New lawsuit asserts commissioner must be removed for violating rights of the Little Havana developers

Bill Fuller, Martin Pinilla Seak Joe Carollo’s Ouster
Barlington Group’s Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla and commissioner Joe Carollo (Barlington Group, Getty)

Little Havana developers Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla are not done hitting back at Joe Carollo, filing another new lawsuit against the city commissioner. This one seeks to oust Carollo from his perch at Miami City Hall. 

Fuller and Pinilla allege the city charter mandates Carollo be removed from office for violating their civil rights, according to their complaint filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on Tuesday. The lawsuit also names the city of Miami as a defendant. The duo, who lead Miami-based Barlington Group, argue their Fort Lauderdale federal court victory last year against Carollo provides substantial proof the controversial Miami politician should be kicked off the city commission. 

In June, a jury rendered a $63.5 million verdict against Carollo, finding him guilty of violating the first amendment rights of Fuller and Pinilla by orchestrating a code enforcement crackdown against their properties and businesses in Little Havana since 2017. The pair allege Carollo targeted them because they supported his political opponent seven years ago. 

His clients “continue to be persecuted by” Carollo, but they filed the new lawsuit on behalf of all Miami residents, said Jeff Gutchess, Fuller and Pinilla’s attorney, in an emailed statement. 

“This is exactly what Miami’s commissioners had in mind when they approved Miami’s Bill of Rights — the removal from office of anyone who violates those sacred rights,” Gutchess said. “We hope his removal improves the city’s functioning, transparency, and the lives of Miami residents and business owners.”

The latest lawsuit is a “frivolous bad-faith filing,” Carollo’s lawyer Benedict Kuehne said in an emailed statement. 

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“Mr. Fuller’s and Mr. Pinilla’s latest filing is nothing more than hyperbolic headline chasing designed to intimidate, harass, and prevent Commissioner Carollo from representing his constituents,” Kuehne said. “On its face, the complaint appears to be wholly without merit and unsupported by law.”

Also this month, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ordered the U.S. Marshal’s Office to seize Carollo’s cash, goods and property to satisfy the $63.5 million verdict against him. In November, Broward Federal Court Clerk Angela Noble ordered the city of Miami to begin garnishing a portion of the elected official’s wages to also go toward paying down the verdict. 

Carollo has maintained that his six-bedroom house in Coconut Grove is protected from seizure under Florida’s homestead law that protects a person’s primary home from a judgment creditor, according to published reports. The city commissioner is also appealing the $63.5 million verdict against him. 

“Commissioner Carollo is hopeful that he will receive due process and that his long-pending motions for new trial and to stay execution of the judgment will be resolved soon,” Kuehne said. “Commissioner Carollo strongly believes that the judgment will be overturned.”

Fuller and Pinilla also have two pending lawsuits in Miami  federal court and Miami-Dade Circuit Court against the city and Miami government bureaucrats that make similar allegations about Carollo’s code enforcement vendetta against them.