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Miami sued by insurance company for paying Commissioner Joe Carollo's legal fees

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Miami sued by insurance company for paying Commissioner Joe Carollo's legal fees


The city of Miami may be on the hook for millions of dollars in a new lawsuit arising out of Commissioner Joe Carollo’s longstanding legal battle with Little Havana property owners.

QBE Specialty Insurance Company, a firm that provides legal insurance coverage for municipalities, this week sued the city in federal court. The company seeks to recover the millions of dollars it has paid to the city since 2018 to cover the legal costs of defending Carollo in a series of lawsuits.

“This action seeks a declaration that QBE has no duty under the … Policies to defend the City, Carollo or any of the other individuals who are defendants in the Underlying Lawsuits,” QBE wrote in its 66-page complaint. (A copy of the complaint is embedded at the end of this story.)

The decision to have the city pay Carollo’s legal fees was one of the foremost reasons former City Attorney Victoria Méndez was pushed out of her position last month. A staunch defender of Carollo, Méndez said it was the responsibility of the city to pay for his legal representation, despite arguments from critics that his actions fell outside the scope of his duties as a city commissioner.

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READ MORE: U.S. Marshals set to auction Joe Carollo’s home over $63.5 million federal judgment

Little Havana entrepreneurs William Fuller and Martin Pinilla sued Carollo in federal court in 2018. They accused Carollo of repeatedly sending code enforcement, police and the city’s fire department to their properties to satisfy what they called a “vendetta” against them. Fuller and Pinilla had supported Carollo’s political opponent Alfie Leon in 2017. They argued Carollo was angry at them for backing his rival, and when he took office, he took it out on their businesses.

Last June, the two businessmen won their lawsuit against the commissioner after a Broward jury found Carollo liable for violating their First Amendment right to free speech. Carollo was ordered to pay $63.5 million in damages to Fuller and Pinilla, a decision the commissioner has since appealed.

In the intervening years, Fuller and his business partners — including Mad Room LLC, which represents the ownership of the Ball & Chain Bar on Calle Ocho — have brought other lawsuits against Carollo and the city of Miami with the same allegations.

Throughout all of the lawsuits, the City of Miami has paid the bill for Carollo’s legal defense out of their insurance policy with QBE.

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Millions of dollars in defense

According to the insurer’s complaint, the cost of defending the city in all of the lawsuits has exceeded $10 million.

QBE argues it has no responsibility to insure the city for the facts alleged in Carollo’s lawsuits because they are predicated on “willful” and “deliberate” acts by the commissioner to deprive the plaintiffs of their individual rights.

“The fundamental premise underlying each and every one of the Underlying Lawsuits is that Carollo — through his own actions and by conscripting others to do his bidding — engaged in a years-long campaign of retaliation and harassment with the conscious objective of inflicting harm on the underlying plaintiff,” QBE wrote.

The complaint also alleges that the city was not entitled to make insurance claims for these lawsuits under their Law Enforcement Liability (LEL) policies, because none of the defendants named in the Fuller group’s lawsuits are law enforcement officials. Those defendants include Carollo, Méndez, City Manager Art Noriega, City Building Director Asael Marrero and Assistant City Attorney Rachel Dooley.

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Jose A. Iglesias

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El Nuevo Herald

City of Miami Attorney Victoria Méndez speaks during a City of Miami Commission meeting on Jan. 12, 2023.

“None of the individual defendants (natural persons) in the Underlying Lawsuits hold any of the ‘Positions to be Insured’ that are listed on the applications for the LEL Policies,” QBE wrote.

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The complaint also names Fuller, Pinilla and the other plaintiffs in their various lawsuits against the City of Miami as defendants in QBE’s case. The insurance company wants a federal judge to declare that QBE has no responsibility to insure the city for these cases, and give it permission to recover the funds it has already paid out.

City of Miami officials could not immediately respond to a request for comment from WLRN for this story.





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Miami, FL

Hyundai Air & Sea Show military outreach highlights service members

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Hyundai Air & Sea Show military outreach highlights service members


Hyundai Air & Sea Show highlights those who served

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Hyundai Air & Sea Show highlights those who served

02:05

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MIAMI BEACH — You’ll see Sergeant First Class Scott Evans snapping shots of soldiers showing off the military machines. 

“We’re bringing America’s army to America,” Evans said.  

His service reminds him of his brother David, who died while on a tour in the Vietnam War, six years before he was born.

“His son was actually born five days later,” Evans said. “So, I have a nephew in Connecticut who never got to meet his dad because he was killed.” 

As he remembers his brother on Memorial Day weekend, his country has found ways to say thank you. 

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“He was of the first graduating class of Lincoln High School in Rhode Island,” Evans said. “And today the park across from the high school is dedicated in his name.” 

“I go to Washington, D.C. pretty frequently,” he added Very often I’ll go to the Vietnam wall and I’ll see his name there.” 

His brother’s bravery is one of the reasons why he enlisted. Serving runs in the family — his grandfather served in World War Two. 

“There was always that aspect of service that came with the Evans family name,” he said. 

“It reminds the general population what the military is for and that their sacrifices aren’t for nothing,” said Staff Sergeant Brandon Bemis.

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Evans says these kinds of outreach events are key since they can teach the next generation about one of America’s oldest institutions. 

“A lot of the service members they have those kinds of stories where they have friends that they’ve served with that are no longer with us. They carry their stories forward when they interact with the public,” Evans said. 



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Going to the Hyundai Air & Sea Show in South Beach? Here is what you need to know

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Going to the Hyundai Air & Sea Show in South Beach? Here is what you need to know


MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Miami Beach is hosting an action-packed celebration of American patriotism on Saturday and Sunday ahead of Memorial Day, a time to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. military.

The Hyundai Air & Sea Show marks the barrier-island city’s eighth annual National Salute to America’s Heroes with representatives of the U.S. military’s six branches, first responders, and allies.

The maroon beret-wearing Red Devils from the British Army’s Parachute Regiment were ready. Mickey Markoff, the show’s executive producer, told Local 10 News the schedule of events honors heroes.

“They are writing the blank check of sacrificing their life for our entire nation to protect our freedom,” Markoff said. “The whole idea is to say thanks.”

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The choreographed beachside tribute is from noon to 6 p.m., and there are events into the night after the show — including a concert, a 3-D mapping video projection on historic buildings, and a fireworks display.

Markoff also said the primary viewing area is along Ocean Drive — between 11 and 14 streets — at the heart of the Art Deco Historic District in South Beach.

Miami Beach police officers were enforcing temporary traffic and parking changes that limited drivers’ access to Ocean Drive, and Collins and Washington avenues.

It will be hot this weekend and there is a risk of Saturday afternoon storms. Organizers said there is an interactive area for kids, food vendors, and water access at Lummus Park, at 1130 Ocean Dr., which also has public restrooms.

Sun protection and comfortable clothes and footwear are a must. Admission to the public show and the after-show events is free. For more information from event organizers, visit this page.

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Memorial Day in Miami Beach

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ASK IRA: Is moving forward with Adebayo at center a case of the Heat failing both Bam and themselves?

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ASK IRA: Is moving forward with Adebayo at center a case of the Heat failing both Bam and themselves?


Q: Bam Adebayo is an incredibly talented  player.  But with the Heat having to probably go through one or a few of these teams in the future:  Denver, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Boston, 76ers, Knicks, Milwaukee and a few others to get the chip, is having Bam Adebayo at center a flaw design? Boston, Minnesota, Oklahoma City and Denver all play big and have talented bigs. – Stuart.

A: This has come up often amid the course of the playoffs and the answer remains the same: If the Heat can add a big man who is a better fit than Bam Adebayo at center, they assuredly would move in that direction. But wanting something and getting someone are two different things. Yes, the Celtics got Kristaps Porzingis and that arguably is one that got away (even as Boston wins in his absence). But I doubt most Heat followers would have been willing to give up for Rudy Gobert what the Timberwolves gave up. And Deandre Ayton hardly was a big man in demand when he was dealt. As for the draft, Victor Wembanyama was an exception. Now, if you want someone along the lines of Clint Capela and are willing to take on his salary, that could be doable. So, as with all players of all sizes, it’s a matter of the right big man as opposed to any big man.

Q: Are Heat fans not being patient enough? I’ve seen some Heat fans want to see a tear down and rebuild, which isn’t going to happen. But when building with young players, you have to be patient. Running it back is what you do with young teams as they improve. The Heat have two rotation pieces in Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Nikola Jovic that will improve. Tyler Herro at 24 can still improve. They’ll be adding another rookie at No. 15 in the draft. Heat fans aren’t going to want to hear this, but running it back may be the best and most responsible option if a trade for a superstar isn’t a possibility. – Dave, Placenta, Calif.

A: No, they probably don’t want to hear that. While championship contention is expressed as the ultimate goal, this also is entertainment. And sometimes that means freshening the product before it is perceived as growing stale. That puts the Heat at a curious crossroads at the moment. When you get down to it, the lone “older” element in the starting lineup is Jimmy Butler, who will be 35 next season. But the question is that if Jimmy missed 22 games at 34, how many does he miss at 35?

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Q: Nikola Jovic did bulk up from year one to year two.  Can he do it again before year three? – Gary, Boca Raton.

A: That becomes a question of whether he wants to or whether the Heat want him to. Adding weight can result in a loss of agility. You have to be careful with such body shaping. As it is, Nikola Jovic plays mostly as a wing, so I’m not sure the desire there is to be able to flex in front of a mirror.



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