Another state ethics investigation of Francis Suarez dropped after ‘no probable cause’ found
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The decision marks another win for the twice-elected Mayor and former presidential candidate over whom federal and local probes still hang.

State ethics officials have dismissed another complaint against Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, finding “no probable cause” to believe he accepted pricey tickets to high-profile events in exchange for governmental influence.

The Florida Commission on Ethics found no grounds to further look into whether he violated state statutes by “accepting a thing of value given to influence a vote or other action … in (his) official capacity.”

“Accordingly, this complaint is dismissed with the issuance of this public report,” Commission Chair Ashley Lukis wrote.

The decision (viewable below) marked another win for Suarez, a twice-elected Mayor and former GOP presidential candidate over whom federal and local probes into alleged misuses of office still hang.

In a statement posted to social media at 12:34 p.m., he bashed Democratic activist Thomas Kennedy, who filed two now-dismissed complaints with the state, and the Miami Herald for its reporting.

“Today’s bipartisan and unanimous exoneration provides irrefutable proof that the vicious and politically motivated attacks on Mayor Suarez’s character are completely inaccurate and without merit,” he wrote.

“This malicious complaint was made by a Democratic activist with no evidence besides inaccurate news stories published by The Miami Herald and represents a significant reprimand of their reporting. Instead of letting this political matter distract him, Mayor Suarez remains committed to the people of Miami where his leadership has helped produce the lowest unemployment, lowest taxes, and lowest homicide rates in recent Miami history.”

In his August 2023 complaint, Kennedy asked ethics officials to look into Suarez’s access to several big events and whether someone else paid. The events included the Miami Formula One race in May 2023 and 2022 trips to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

State law requires elected officials to disclose the source of all gifts valued over $100. Gifts from lobbyists, city vendors or their employees of more than $100 are also prohibited.

The Herald reported that Suarez and his wife received VIP access to the Formula One event worth tens of thousands of dollars from hedge fund CEO Ken Griffin, who also donated $1 million to the Mayor’s presidential campaign last year. Griffin’s company, Citadel, had registered lobbyists in Miami for several projects.

Asked by the Herald about the tickets then, both Suarez and Griffin said the Mayor “appropriately covered the cost” and that saying otherwise would be “troubling, irresponsible, and misleading to readers.” The Herald reported in August that in response to a request for records proving Suarez paid for the tickets, neither he nor the city produced any.

However, Suarez wasn’t due to disclose public gifts until the end of September — one of several “facts” he shared online Wednesday after the Ethics Commission decision.

“The Miami Herald reported the Mayor was violating gift disclosure rules before the disclosure deadline had passed. It was akin to attacking someone for not filing their taxes before April 15,” he wrote.

“When the Mayor attended events where tickets were initially purchased by another person, he paid those individuals back, just like millions of other Americans who attend sporting events and concerts as a group and then pay back the person who bought the tickets.”

Last month, the Florida Commission on Ethics dismissed another complaint from Kennedy accusing Suarez of violating state ethics law by spending city funds on personal security during his short White House bid. The agency cited a “lack of legal sufficiency.”

Contradicting Kennedy’s assertion that Suarez misused public resources for personal political benefit, the Ethics Commission decided the Mayor did not act unlawfully by having Miami Police Department officers accompany him on the campaign trail and rack up taxpayer-funded hotel, meal and transportation expenses.

“There is a public purpose for the provision of protective service to a public officer, even when he travels,” the dismissal said. “Moreover, we note there is no indication in the complaint that (Suarez) used his position to coerce the City into providing the security detail or into ensuring reimbursement would be received for such services.”

Another probe is ongoing at the federal level into the Mayor’s business relationship with Rishi Kapoor, a local developer who sought project approval with the city and paid Suarez $10,000 a month through a subsidiary.

The Herald has also reported that Suarez advocated for a no-bid city contract benefitting the partner of one of his many private employers.

Suarez’s side jobs, which netted him millions in just a few years, are the subject of yet another investigation State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle confirmed in January that her office and the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust are conducting.

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.


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