Coral Gables City Commissioner Jorge Fors Jr. may have run afoul of the county’s rules against using government resources to support a political campaign.
For a short time in the last week, an ad for Fors’ campaign for the Miami-Dade County Commission ran on the Coral Gables city website. That’s a violation of county ordinances, according to Jose Arrojo, executive director of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.
Fors blames the city’s recently renovated website for the oversight, which has since been corrected.
Fors is one of four candidates seeking the District 6 seat on the County Commission. On Aug. 8, he posted a video to his Twitter page urging residents to partake in early voting, which runs locally this year through Aug. 21.
In the video, he identifies himself as a candidate for the County Commission, adding “Thank you for your vote, and thank you for your support.” The video also includes signage for his campaign and the address of his campaign website.
While his Twitter page refers to him as “Commissioner Jorge L. Fors, Jr.,” Fors said it’s a personal account and the only one he has on the platform.
Early Voting starts TODAY, Monday, August 8th, and runs through Sunday August 21st! This week, you can vote from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM at any of the Early Voting Sites, including the Coral Gables Youth Center, the West Miami Community Center, and the John F. Kennedy Library. pic.twitter.com/2qOAqW3FTW
— COMMISSIONER JORGE L. FORS, JR. (@JorgeForsJr) August 8, 2022
The tweet, despite brushing up against rules barring officeholders from leveraging their elected positions for electoral gain, doesn’t itself rise to being a violation, Arrojo said.
But a feature on the Coral Gables website may have inadvertently crossed Fors over the line.
According to Fors, the city overhauled its website this month. One of the new features that came with the upgrade was a live feed of each elected official’s Twitter posts.
Fors said he was not aware of the Twitter feature until city staff contacted him about the video. They quickly removed the Twitter feed from his page. As of 4 p.m. Thursday, the feature is no longer on Fors’ page, but it’s still up on the pages of Coral Gable Mayor Vince Lago and Commissioner Rhonda Anderson.
“We’ve never had a Twitter ticker on our profile pages before,” Fors said. “I don’t even know if (staff) were notified (about the issue) or if they just saw it themselves. They’re all over the website, because it’s brand new, and they’re actively working on it. I never even saw the ticker. It could have been up there for five minutes, for all I know.”
Fors said later that the post was up on the site for “exactly 8 minutes” before staff removed it.
Coral Gables Attorney Miriam Soler Ramos agreed the Twitter feed wasn’t there prior to the site upgrade.
“(The) website is brand new and I have confirmed that the Twitter feeds were not previously on the Commissioners’ pages,” she said by text.
Arrojo told Florida Politics that county and municipal elected officials in Miami-Dade are prohibited from using government resources for political campaign purposes.
“An incumbent, elected official is not allowed to use any resource of the municipality they are currently serving in for campaign purposes — period. That’s a hard-and-fast rule, and everybody knows that,” he said. “The bright-line rule is that you can’t send out (or publish) campaign advertisements for a new position you’re seeking on a municipal website.”
He continued, “When it comes to incumbents running for re-election or higher office, they are certainly permitted to communicate to constituents about matters relating to governance and this may have a political benefit. However, this is permissible and simply a benefit of incumbency, as long as the communication does not cross the line into pure political advertisement or ‘vote for me’ type of language.”
Arrojo said his office sends a memo with annual reminders about election and campaign rules directly to elected officials and employees through municipal clerk offices and the Miami-Dade League of Cities.
“We also discuss the prohibition in our elected ethics training, afforded throughout the year,” he said.
View the most recent such memo below.
District 6 covers a central portion of Miami-Dade, including part or all of the cities of Miami Springs, Virginia Gardens and West Miami; parts of Coral Gables, Hialeah and Miami; and some of the county’s unincorporated area. The district also contains Miami International Airport, one of the county’s top two economic engines, and a Miami golf course being redeveloped as a soccer stadium complex for the city’s Major League Soccer team, Inter Miami CF.
Fors is running against two fellow Republicans — lobbyist Kevin Marino Cabrera and entrepreneur Dariel Fernandez — and Democratic Miami Springs Councilman Victor Vázquez in the technically nonpartisan contest to represent the district, whose current Commissioner, Rebeca Sosa, must leave office due to term limits.
Sosa has endorsed Fors as her preferred successor.
Miami-Dade law requires a County Commission candidate to receive more than half the votes cast during the Aug. 23 Primary to win office.
If no candidate captures that share of the vote, the two candidates who receive the highest number of votes will compete in a runoff Nov. 8.
August 15, 2022 at 3:18 pm
I still wonder if all this sht s on stable ground too too see what seams are in it
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