Complaint filed against Coral Gables Commission candidate alleging inappropriate campaign expenditures

Florida losing lawsuits (Large)
The complaint against Ariel Fernandez is related to in-kind contributions from his blog.

Coral Gables City Commission candidate Ariel Fernandez is facing two complaints filed with the Florida Elections Commission alleging potential violations related to in-kind contributions and inappropriate use of advertising.

The complaints allege Fernandez, who runs a political consulting firm and a local blog where he sells advertising space, has been running campaign ads in the newsletter and blog for free.

“The value of the advertisements for the purpose of reporting an in-kind contribution should be consistent with published rates for advertisements on the website and the newsletter,” the complaint states.

Fernandez is the publisher of Gables Insider, a blog focused on the city through which he has highlighted issues of residential import, including an “Executive Benefits Package” 54 people on the city payroll began receiving in 2017 without Commission approval.

The second complaint also addresses in-kind contributions from Fernandez’s blog and newsletter. It states that “while a candidate may contribute unlimited amounts of his own funds to his campaign, Mr. Fernandez’s in-kind contributions are a violation of section 106.021(3) and section 106.07, Florida Statutes because they are essentially expenditures of the campaign that are not made through the treasurer and do not report the recipient of the funds.”

Fernandez previously served as deputy district director for former U.S. Rep. David Rivera from 2011 to 2013. Rivera was arrested last year on federal criminal charges, including failing to register as a foreign agent for Venezuela. He also worked for nearly 15 years as a campaign coordinator and congressional aide for former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Fernandez faces lawyer Alex Bucelo, who has been a member of the Coral Gables Planning and Zoning Board, Code Enforcement Board, the Mayor’s Advisory Council, and the Coral Gables Museum Board of Directors.

There was some nastiness during the race. In recent months, residents have received texts and mailers labeling Fernandez as a “socialist” due to his work performed more than a decade ago for Rivera.

Fernandez told the Miami Herald the accusation is unfair and inaccurate. Bucelo denied involvement with the mailers.

Election Day in Coral Gables is Tuesday, April 11th. There are two open seats on the ballot for the City Commission.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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