It’s always the cover up that gets ’em.
We all know that Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez is a big, fat liar. It’s documented. He was caught when he testified in the tax evasion trial of former Mayor Julio Robaina admitting that he charged 36% interest on a personal loan, something he had repeatedly denied publicly and to the media for years. He was fined by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, which found that he violate the Citizens’ Bill of Rights “Truth in Government” provision when he lied in both Spanish and English about his loansharking activities.
But now we have evidence that the mayor has lied under oath, which is much more serious and could be a chargeable offense. We might have him on perjury, of all things!
Hernandez hemmed and hawed and blatantly lied in a sworn statement to the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust when he said he didn’t know that his political “enforcer” — a man he called his “snitch” — was getting paid taxpayer dollars for odd jobs in the city.
An Ethics investigation that concluded in April found that Glenn Rice, the mayor’s longtime ally and political enforcer, had been paid a total of $18,000 in multiple checks out of city coffers in 2015 and 2016. But there was evidence to suggest it was for legitimate work, monitoring the city’s new privatized solid waste service and doing background checks on vendors and potential employees. Officials in other municipalities had talked to Rice and provided him with public records. He had been present at several meetings. And he had a photograph of curbside garbage that had not been picked up. Who cares if it was the mayor’s curbside?
But while there may have been no crime here, there was a cover up, which is a whole ‘nother crime.
Hernandez was under oath when, a little more than five minutes into the testimony at the law office of his attorney Tom Cobitz, he told the investigator he didn’t know Rice was getting paid by the city.
“I think he volunteered something afterwards, once we had — what’s the word? — implemented the whole thing,” Hernandez is quoted in the close-out memo as saying. “I know he assisted our director of public works… and I think he could better answer the question. Armando Vidal can give you better information on that.”
Really? Does anybody believe he really thinks that Glenn volunteered?
So it was just a happy coincidence, then, that those payments were made through the law firm of the mayor’s best friend, Miami Lakes Councilman Ceasar Mestre, who went to the police academy with Hernandez and later served as his partner on the Hialeah Police force? And it never came up in conversation for two whole years, even though Mestre told the investigator that he has lunch with his old partner at least two or three times a week?
No, actually, we don’t even have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
That’s because Hialeah Public Works Director Armando Vidal, a man with far more credibility, said that Hernandez himself requested he retain Rice, going so far as to suggest the Mestre go-between to hide it! “The mayor didn’t want to hire Glenn Rice directly,” Vidal is quoted as saying in the close-out report.
Of course he didn’t. That would look like he was hiring Rice as a reward for doing his dirty work. And now we know why Mestre really dropped out of the mayoral race last year.
“He said the mayor trusted Rice to provide an independent look at matters relating to city of Hialeah affairs… Mr. Vidal advised that several of the jobs originated with Mayor Hernandez and that Rice’s involvement was expressly requested,” the report states.
“Not only was Mayor Hernandez aware of Rice’s involvement in overseeing Progressive’s performance, Vidal further advised that it was the mayor himself who requested that Rice be retained in this capacity,” it says later in the conclusion. Mr. Vidal stated Rice was someone the mayor ‘trusted’ and that the mayor specifically asked for Rice to be used on several occasions, including the consulting firms Matrix and Aecom.
“Mr. Vidal stated that while Mayor Hernandez clearly valued Rice’s opinion, ‘the mayor didn’t want to hire Glenn Rice directly,’ and suggested to Vidal that Rice could be contracted through Councilman Mestre’s lawfirm. ‘The mayor discussed it with me. He authorized it,'” Vidal is quoted as saying.
Duh. Of course it was the mayor’s idea to go through Mestre. Of course he authorized it.
If anyone deserves to be charged with perjury it is Carlos Hernandez. If not just because he is a liar then maybe because he is a loanshark. Or how about for the many times he has abused his power and his office to go after his political enemies? Or maybe for the many times he has retaliated against city employees who don’t support him or are critical. Or maybe because of the absentee ballot fraud he has committed and tolerated among the most frail and vulnerable in his city.
Ladra would say he is definitely due. Unless the rumors are true, and Carlitos really is an untouchable FBI infornmant, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has an opportunity to right a wrong here and finally deliver justice to the people of Hialeah for myriad sins.
The fact that it would be with a perjury charge is just gravy.