Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez booked for alleged compensation scheme

He was expected to be released on a $12,500 bond just hour after reporting to Turner Guildford Knight Correctional Center.

Widely considered a front-runner for the county’s revived Sheriff job, Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez turned himself in Tuesday at a Doral corrections facility on charges of unlawful compensation.

The charges stem from a five-year investigation by the county Inspector General’s Office and State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s Office. His arrest warrant shows he is accused of accepting $15,000 in exchange for “using his official position” to sponsor legislation helping a shopping plaza owner and tenant near his district.

In a statement Monday, Martinez maintained he was a “private citizen” working as a consultant when he accepted the funds in late 2016 and early 2017 from Jorge Negrin, owner of Extra Supermarket in West Miami-Dade. Fernandez Rundle’s office confirmed with the Miami New Times in late 2019 it was conducting an active probe related to Martinez, who this week asserted the case is “politically motivated.”

Miami reporter Elaine de Valle on Sunday first flagged Martinez’s then-pending surrender to county authorities. The Miami Herald and many other outlets have since run reports.

Prosecutors allege Martinez accepted three $5,000 payments over several months in exchange for pushing a proposed ordinance that would end financial penalties Negrin and his landlord, Sergio Delgado, received for having too many storage containers at Delgado’s shopping plaza. Negrin and Delgado received tens of thousands of dollars in fines for violating Miami-Dade rules barring properties under 10 acres from having cargo storage containers onsite.

The warrant from Fernandez Rundle’s office cites bank records and numerous email, text and phone exchanges between Martinez, Negrin and Delgado, including exchanges about an alleged request Martinez made of Delgado to help him secure a bank loan.

Martinez’s office placed the legislation in question on the County Commission agenda in August 2017 but quickly pulled it from consideration. On the day he shelved the item, he had a nearly seven-minute phone conversation with Delgado.

Within two months, agents from the Inspector General’s Office questioned Martinez about the alleged pay-to-play scheme. The warrant said he claimed to not remember who Delgado was and “did not recall the reason” he received payments, which he described as loans. Immediately after the interview, the warrant said, he had a two-and-a-half-minute phone conversation with Negrin.

When agents again interviewed Martinez alongside prosecutors two years later, the warrant said he said he did indeed know Delgado and called his description of the payments as “loans” as a “poor choice of words.”

Officially, Martinez is being charged with felony counts of unlawful compensation and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation. Gov. Ron DeSantis could suspend him from office as he did recently to Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren and four Broward County School Board members.

The Governor would then have the option to appoint a temporary replacement for Martinez. If DeSantis abstains from action on the matter and Martinez resigns, the County Commission could either appoint someone to fill his seat or call for a special election.

Martinez arrived for booking at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on Tuesday morning. A Miami-Dade Corrections Department spokesperson told reporters Martinez was expected to be released on a $12,500 bond after a 1:30 p.m. hearing.

Fernandez Rundle was scheduled to hold a press conference on the matter at 2:30 p.m.

In his statement, Martinez acknowledged he has been under investigation for five years. He denied the charges and questioned their timing.

“(The) timing of the allegations that do not involve Commissioner Martinez’s time in public office raise questions of a political impact when he is considered the frontrunner for the newly created Sheriff of Miami-Dade County,” the statement said. “For now, Commissioner Martinez makes clear he is innocent of any wrongdoing and intends to aggressively work to clear his name.”

A former Miami-Dade police lieutenant and two-time Chair of the County Commission, Martinez has been a top candidate for Miami-Dade Sheriff, an elected role returning to the county after decades.

He’s served in two separate stints since 2000 as a Miami-Dade Commissioner, broken up between 2012 and 2016, when he unsuccessfully ran for Mayor and Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

This election cycle, Martinez was working behind the scenes this year to secure a third chairmanship before he reached term limits in 2024, doling out five-figure campaign donations to newly elected Commissioners Juan Carlos Bermudez, Anthony Rodriguez and Micky Steinberg and candidate Kevin Marino Cabrera, who faces a runoff challenge in Coral Gables Commissioner Jorge Fors Jr.

Miami-Dade is the only county in Florida without an elected Sheriff, with Mayor Daniella Levine Cava serving in a de facto role as the county’s top cop, overseeing some 4,700 employees, an annual budget of $815 million and an appointed police director.

In 2018, a supermajority of voters — as well as 63.2% of voters in Miami-Dade — approved a constitutional amendment requiring uniformity of elected jobs across all counties, including Sheriff, by 2024.

In keeping with that vote, Martinez has argued for making the incoming Sheriff strong with power over all law enforcement matters. Levine Cava and other Commissioners, including Chair Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Vice Chair Oliver Gilbert III, favor shared authority and jurisdiction with the Mayor.

The Commission voted 9-4 in June to bifurcate police responsibilities between the two offices, a move that prompted the Florida Sheriffs Association to sue the county this month.

Martinez represents Miami-Dade’s 11th Commission District, which covers a swath of unincorporated neighborhoods on the county’s west.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Diane Brown

    August 30, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    I wonder who DeSantis will replace him with? Perhaps a new member of the Miami Repub Party – one of the Proud Boys?

  • PeterH

    August 30, 2022 at 2:44 pm

    Grifting is a popular Republican pastime in Florida and elsewhere in the USA.

    • Hope

      August 30, 2022 at 3:47 pm

      You are hilarious…

      Democrat gubernatorial candidate and former Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum just indicted and the former Tallahassee “Democrat” Mayor Scott Maddox in federal prison.

  • You spelled it wrong then spelled it right

    September 8, 2022 at 8:33 pm

    Guilford, not Guildford

Comments are closed.


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