DeSantis suspends Miami-Dade official amid corruption case

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 3:11 PM EDT
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MIAMI (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday suspended a Miami-Dade County commissioner who has been charged in a felony corruption case.

DeSantis, a Republican, suspended Joe Martinez through an executive order that barred the longtime county official from performing any official acts or receiving any government pay.

Martinez was charged last month with unlawful compensation and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation in a case involving $15,000 in payments from a business owner facing code violations, according to authorities. He has pledged to fight the charges.

Martinez, a former police lieutenant, has served on the County Commission off and on since 2000 and has been considering a run for Miami-Dade sheriff in 2024.

Investigators say Martinez accepted $15,000 from a supermarket owner who was facing repeated fines for having too many storage units on the property. In exchange for the money, authorities say Martinez pushed legislation that would allow the supermarket and its landlord to legally have their storage containers. The legislation ultimately did not pass, though authorities said the charged are still permissible.

In a statement, Martinez’s attorney, Ben Kuehne, described the charges as “baseless” and said Martinez “looks forward to being completely vindicated and cleared of any wrongdoing.”

After a 17-year police career, Martinez was elected to the commission in 2000. He gave up the seat in 2012 for an unsuccessful run for county mayor, then failed in a 2014 Republican campaign for Congress. He was elected to rejoin the commission in 2016 and reelected in 2020.