JUNE 3, 2013


At the May 21st Miami-Dade Ethics Commission meeting, the Commissioners went out of their way to implement the “Family and friends Plan,” by affording Commissioner “Ethics” Sarnoff and his attorney a 2nd opportunity to rehear the complaint that I filed last October, and which the Commission in private session had determined merited Probable Cause that the Commissioner had failed to comply with the applicable laws when it came to reporting his and his wife’s junket to Brazil as part of the Volvo Around-The World Yacht Race.

The Commissioner was determined at all costs to get the Ethics Commission to remove the words Probable Cause from any of the documents that they issued in this case - the Letters of Instruction and the Final Order - and as the below letter reveals, went to extraordinary lengths to do so.

May 27, 2013

Mr. Charlton Copeland

19 W. Flagler Street

Suite 820

Miami, FL 33130

Dear Chairman Copeland:

At what point did the truth quit being a matter of importance, or even relevance to the decisions made by the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission?

The May 21st protracted, confusing and most of all unnecessary 3rd rehearing of my complaint against Commissioner Marc Sarnoff for refusing to report as a gift the trip that he and his wife took to Brazil to participate in the Volvo Around-The-World Race, established once again that you and your fellow Commissioners have a blatant double-standard when it comes to rehearing cases, and unfortunately little interest in holding anyone who appears before you accountable for lying to your faces.

Even worse, the Commission determined in a separate but equally alarming decision to establish two categories of citizenship when it comes to those who come before you seeking redress as part of your reworking of the Commission’s rules.

Allow me to address this last issue first. 

Based on your determination, individuals who file a complaint and who are allegedly determined to be an “personally aggrieved party” will be allowed to attend the Probable Cause hearings on the complaints that they file, but those individuals who file a complaint only out of a misguided belief that by doing so they are following through on the precepts of seeking truth, justice and an expectation that the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission is actually entrusted with the task of setting some sort of ethical standards when it comes to the behavior of elected and public officials will not be allowed to attend a Probable Cause hearing.

Your decision creates a two-tiered system where some citizens will be considered “more equal than others,” or rather more “Aggrieved” than others. With no small irony, this decision runs counter to the claim made by your former Chairman, Mr. Rosenthal – no champion of ethics when it comes to his own behavior - who argued that it was “the public” who in all cases is always the “aggrieved party” in an ethics complaint.

You cannot rationally argue or put forth the premise that the public writ large is the aggrieved party in all ethics complaints, and then deny any member of that public who takes on the daunting challenge of making a complaint under oath to your group, the right to witness the Probable Cause hearing on that complaint, unless they meet an additional level of being a “personally aggrieved” party.

In fact, as you currently operate, Probable Cause hearings – evidenced by what occurred in the Sarnoff case and similar cases where accused politicians immediately go out and hire high-priced attorneys  - the supposed hearings have gone beyond Probable Cause and become full-blown evidentiary hearings with legal memorandums, meetings with staff and personal appearances to argue their case before it’s even been determined that there are grounds for a case.

A Probable Cause hearing is not a trial, or anything resembling a trial, but there is ample evidence that this is exactly what these hearings have become well before a decision is reached on whether there is enough evidence to hold a hearing on the merits of the allegations.

No matter how you and your fellow Commissioners wish to defend the decision to allow some complainants to sit in on these hearings, while keeping others out, the fact of the matter is that all of you continue to make decisions and act in ways that blatantly tilts the entire ethics process more and more in favor of the accused, while attempting to deflect attention from that reality by making self-serving comments about transparency, fairness and maintaining a high level of integrity.

There is nothing fair in creating two classes of complainants, and there was certainly nothing fair in holding a third rehearing to allow Commissioner Sarnoff and his lawyer, Mr. Dellagloria to continue duplicitous their efforts to evade the Commissioner’s responsibility for failing to report the trip that he and his wife took to Brazil to the point of reducing his behavior to an act of minor mopery, thereby justifying the removal of any reference to Probable Cause from the documents issued by the Commission in this case.

How does one even manage to get a rehearing, much less 2 rehearings before the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission?  It either speaks to the Commission’s failure through what can only be considered incompetence to get the issues right the first or second time, or, as I allege in this case, nothing more than a political favor in line with what has become known as the “Family and Friends Plan.”

In this case it seems that in large part all it took to persuade you to hold another hearing was Commissioner Sarnoff’s attorney deciding to change his mind.  Here is a portion of that particular exchange that took place between yourself and Mr. Dellagloria.

“I recognize that you have a problem, “ Mr. Dellagloria says,        

         “Thinking that, well if it went to the wife it really went to the

         Commissioner, and so it should be a gift. But your code doesn’t

         allow that…”

Can I interrupt you,” you say.”

“Of course you can.”

“So on November 27th” you said, “and I’m reading on page 25, line

         23, “And as far as Mrs Sarnoff goes, again, yes, it’s a gift. Yes,

         your opinion in the North Miami case indicates that. Why is that not

         a concession?””

“And I have changed my mind,” Mr Dellagloria replies, “And I’m allowed to do that.”

“I just want to be clear about that…”

“I freely admitted in the last document that I submitted to you that I said it, and I’ve now changed my mind about it.  And I’ve changed my mind about it, after reviewing the Miami Beach case.”

Mr. Dellagloria then goes on to talk about the Miami Beach case and it alleged relevance to the behavior of Commissioner Sarnoff and his wife, and then went off into a hypothetical situation where the Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau approaches Mrs., Sarnoff to be come a free-lance ambassador for the Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau dispatched to Hungary in order to initiate a Sister City Program with the city of Budapest.

Lost in all this hypothetical stupid nonsense were two important questions that were never asked, or answered.

The first question is, why should the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission consider, must less allow a third rehearing on the basis of the Commissioner’s legal counsel deciding to change his mind after he essentially plead his client out on the charge that he had failed to file the necessary report of the public money that paid for his wife’s accompanying him on this Brazilian junket?

Secondly, doesn’t the fact of Mr. Dellagloria’s admission that he reviewed the Miami Beach case only after the initial hearing in November and the 2nd rehearing earlier this year reveal at the minimum an example of gross incompetence and lack of professional responsibility on the part of Mr. Dellagloria to come before you like a kid who shows up in front of a teacher claiming after failing the test that he’s entitled to take it over again because he finally decided to read the textbook?

Of course, all of this supposes that the underlying claim that Mrs. Sarnoff was along for more than just the ride on this junket has some basis in truth.


As I have stated on more than once occasion, a complainant is the only person required to submit to an oath on an issue that comes before your Commission.  No one else, especially an accused individual or witnesses are required to take an oath, and therefore all are able to lie at will without fear of repercussion.

This leads to the kind of sociopathic brazenness engaged in by Commissioner Sarnoff at this last rehearing where after Mr. Dellagloria engaged in his “I’m entitled to change my mind, “ nonsense, the Commissioner took to the podium and repeatedly lied in an attempt to mislead you into believing that his wife’s activities associated with the junket constituted more than just going along for the ride. 

Having watched the Commissioner in action over the last three years, this was perhaps a singular example of his throwing caution to the winds in an effort to say whatever he thought needed to be said to persuade you and your members about his wife’s supposed ‘official’ involvement and participation in this trip.

Let me provide you the specifics.

As part of my original complaint I submitted a DVD with 93 pages of documents that were the backup to my main allegations that the money used to pay for the Commissioner and his wife’s junket to Brazil had come from public monies, and that the Commissioner failed to report the receipt of those monies, which under Florida statute constitute a “gift.”

At your meeting, during the arguments about whether the Commissioner’s wife accompanying him on this junket to Brazil – paid for by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Downtown Development Authority and by the Volvo Around-The-World Host Committee - constituted a “gift” to the Commissioner, he argued that she was not just along for the ride, but that she played an integral role in organizing the trip and in the subsequent arrangements to create a Sister-City relationship between the City of Miami and the City of Itajai.

Here is a verbatim portion of what he said taken from my videotape of the meeting:

“I can tell you that part and parcel of the conversation with

the City Attorney was the disclosure that my wife would be

attending.  And the City Attorney said to me, just be sure that

she attended every meeting that you go to and that she engages

in whatever follow up or work you’re gonna do.  My wife happens

to be my Para-legal of eighteen years, and as such she set up the

meetings in San Paolo, she set up the meetings in, ah, the other

the other part of Brazil, and in Itajai, she was with me at all time

on all Volvo functions. She then followed up with everyone that

we met and gave personal thank you’s to everybody, and then

suggested a Sister-City initiative…  But it was my wife who actually

created the Sister City initiative followed up by the Mayor’s office…She

did everything including getting us to Brazil, attending every meeting

in Brazil; in San Paolo, in, ah, forgot the other city we were in…Rio de

Janeiro, where we met with the Olympic Committee, the World Cup

folks, and she followed up with the Itajai folks to create the Sister-City

initiative in Miami – we have the emails commensurate with that – and

that’s what she did.  That was a normal day in Teresa’s life.  And she

has never sat on the beach in Brazil, nor did I sit on the beach in Brazil.
If you look at the schedule, there was never time to sit on the beach,

there was never any time to do anything other than attend every meeting. Thank you.”

Everyone should be so lucky to have a helpmate like this.

However, copies of the 93 emails that I provided the Commission, along with the copy of the Downtown Development Authority receipts, and the voluminous correspondence between Joe Centorino, your Executive Director and Dusty Melton, one of the board members of the Volvo Around-The-World Host Committee, who raised his own concerns of how the supposed investigation of this case was conducted - you would have discovered that it was the Commissioner’s staff, specifically his Chief of Staff, Ron Nelson, along the staff of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau who were responsible for organizing this trip, and not, as the Commissioner tried so hard to claim, his wife, talented and industrious thought she may be.

There are several dozen emails that spell that out in great specificity, including the following two examples.



Do these emails read like the Commissioner’s wife was in charge – or even a participant - in organizing anything to do with this junket?

Then there is the Commissioner’s claim that his wife, like a good aide de camp, sent everyone Thank You Notes.  That she did, not as his Para-Legal, but as his wife.  Here is just one example. You can find others in the packet of emails.

Notice her reference to “Our tour was wonderful….”

You will recall how adamant and animated the Commissioner was in claiming that neither he nor his wife had time to spend on the beach in Rio because they were engaged full time in attending meetings. His exact words were, “There was never any time to do anything other than attend every meeting.”

Not only does his wife’s Thank You note belie that claim, but also I direct you to this revealing exchange of emails between the Commissioner and Rolando Aedo from the GMCVB on the subject of the Commissioner and his wife requiring some time to play tourist.

What good is a junket paid for by taxpayers if you can’t do a little sightseeing?  So again, the Commissioner and his wife’s own emails  establish that the Commissioner was lying.

As for the claim that Ms. Sarnoff was the person responsible for creating the Sister-City relationship between Miami and Itajai, I’ll refer you to the exchange of emails and letters between the Mayor of Itajai, Alyce Robertson, the executive Director of the DDA who accompanied the Sarnoffs on the trip, and who covered some of the Sarnoffs expenses with DDA monies – a copy of all of the DDA receipts were provided to Mr. Murwaski – and you can make your own determination whether Mrs. Sarnoff had anything to do with this claim. (The relevant documents can be found on pages 64-73.)


Last October – well after his supposed conversation with Miami City Attorney Julie Bru on the appropriateness of going on trips paid for by governmental agencies and not having to report them - the Commissioner and his wife went to China allegedly to accompany the Miami Heat on an exhibition tour. When asked by Miami Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory who had paid for that trip, Sarnoff claimed that the Miami Heat had paid for the trip.

Here is the relevant portion of the October 14, 2012 article in the Miami Herald where Sarnoff initially claimed he was not going to report the trip.

“Sarnoff said the Heat paid for his flight and hotel.  But he does not

plan to report the trip as a gift, because he had official duties as a

Miami City Commissioner while overseas.  Heat media relations

director Tim Donovan, who was also in China, did not return an

email seeking comment.”

After the Ethics Commission released its original Probable Cause finding against the Commissioner, McGrory did a story about that, and this time under questioning, Sarnoff admitted that the Chinese government had paid for his and his wife’s travel expenses, a fact that was not disclosed in the original story.

“Sarnoff also took a trip to China this year, where he watched the

Miami Heat play a preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers. 

In October Sarnoff said that the Heat paid for his flight and hotel.  On Wednesday, he said that the Shanghai Sports Bureau paid for him

and his wife. He now plans to declare that trip as a gift, he said.”

Although the Commissioner never publicly revealed just what “official duties” he performed while in China, the fact that he finally admitted that the Shanghai Sports Bureau, and not the Miami Heat had paid for the trip underscores his willingness to lie on any occasion where he believes it serves his personal interests, in this case attempting to shield the information that he and his wife received a junket from a Chinese government agency that spent a minimum of $22,739 to fly the Sarnoff’s to China is certainly the kind of information that someone of Sarnoff’s tender sensibilities when it comes to revealing how he’s been cashing in as a City Commissioner would like to keep secret.


Given her track record of providing bogus legal opinions, who would express surprise if Commissioner Sarnoff would claim as his defense that he had gotten got bad legal advice from Miami’s City Attorney

Bad legal advice is pretty much the only legal advice that City Attorney Julie Bru gives, especially when the advice is intended to provide political cover or justification for the machinations of one or more members of the City Commission.

City Attorney Bru is actually quite notorious for providing tailor made opinions whenever one of the City Commissioners gets in trouble and needs some sort of bogus legal opinion that they can use to cover their ass.

Just in the last few months, Bru issued a legal opinion that now has City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones going before the 3rd DCA, in an effort to convince them that Ms. Bru’s opinion supporting her ability to run for a 3rd term should be accepted, and not the ruling issued by Circuit Court Judge Jorge Cueto that the Commissioner has used up all of her tickets to ride on the Merry-Go-Round of Corruption that is the Miami City Commission.

Even worse was her on-going legal advice that the City of Miami wasn’t responsible for $1.35 million in back taxes owed by the lessee of the Grove Key Marina. That came about because the city under her legal guidance had never attempted to rewrite the original lease agreement requiring the lessee to pay property taxes. That case too is headed for the 3rd DCA, after the Miami-Dade County attorneys representing the County Tax Collector cleaned the city’s clock before Circuit Court Judge Peter Lopez.

And then of course there is the incident in 2011 when an effort was made to bribe former Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito to get him to resign, and City Attorney Bru authorized the issuance of a $200,000 check from her private settlement account that would have served as the first of two payments to the Chief. 

The reason for the check being issued from that account was that settlement checks from the City Attorney’s private settlement account do not get reported to the IRS for purposes of taxation.  This was a complete violation of the City Charter, and should have been independently investigated by the State Attorney, but we all know just how recalcitrant  the State Attorney is when it comes to going after anyone on the “Family and friends Plan.”

In any event, I direct your attention to the self-serving Memorandum prepared by City Attorney Bru AFTER I had submitted by complaint in this Brazilian junket case.

I believe that the above Memorandum supports the claim that City Attorney Julie Bru was never asked for an opinion in April as she claims, but only wrote her Memorandum memorializing a conversation that allegedly took place between her and Commissioner Sarnoff only after I filed my ethics complaint against the Commissioner as a way to provide the Commissioner with a defense.

The best proof of this was her i failure to include Mrs. Sarnoff in the Memorandum.  Had City Attorney Bru said what the Commissioner claimed at the beginning of his little fib fest at the last meeting, to wit:

“I can tell you that part and parcel of the conversation with

the City Attorney was the disclosure that my wife would be

attending.  And the City Attorney said to me, just be sure that

she attended every meeting that you go to and that she engages

in whatever follow up or work you’re gonna do.”

If the Commissioner and the City Attorney had had a “part and parcel” conversation about the Commissioner’s wife, then unless she’s slipped into dementia, City Attorney Bru would have remembered and included Mrs. Sarnoff as part of her attempted exoneration of the Commissioner for failing to report the trip in her bogus legal opinion.

That she didn’t was because Mrs. Sarnoff participation only became an issue after I filed my amended complaint, and after Dusty Melton weighed in with the revelations that his group had also been a party to the payment of the Mrs. Sarnoff’s travel costs.

In addition, notice that City Attorney Bru only mentions the cities of Itajai and Rio de Janeiro.  Why didn’t she include San Paolo?  Could it be because, like has been pointed out above the visit to San Paolo was not in the Commissioner’s “official capacity” and would have totally invalidated the reasoning behind Bru’s memorandum?

It was only after that, that Mr. Dellagloria started claiming that the City Attorney had also opined on Mrs. Sarnoff’s participation in this junket, but had failed to include any mention of her in her Memorandum.

Of course, I don’t expect you to do anything so drastic as to actually consider holding one more rehearing of this case to determine whether the Commissioner and Mr. Dellagloria lied to you, because the evidence is conclusive that they did.

Another rehearing would require an admission that you all acted in extreme bad faith by allowing the Commissioner and his attorney to play you all like a cheap fiddle at a barn dance.


At this point I am far more interested in raising a larger question. 

Whom among you, whether Commission members or staff is there to protect my interests and the interests of the public at large as “Aggrieved Parties” in cases where the accused is discovered to have flagrantly lied in an effort to missile the Commission into issuing a favorable opinion on their behalf?

Who speaks for me, when I am not allowed to speak for myself?

At this meeting, you Mr. Chairman repeatedly denied me the right to speak.

Are the rights of complainants in general not as important as the rights of the accused?  Or was it just MY rights that you set out to deny because of the embarrassment that I would have caused by citing all the documents that countered the Commissioners self-serving and untruthful claims?  

Where’s the equity? Where is there a concern that what you are told at these hearings  is the truth? Clearly, in this case the truth was the first thing that was jettisoned by the Commissioner and his attorney.

Last November, after the first decision to exclude the words Probable Cause from the Letter Of Instruction to Commissioner Sarnoff, I confronted Mr. Murwaski in the hallway about what had transpired during the hearing given the convolved and confusing arguments them raised by Mr. Dellagloria, and his response, said in front of an El Nuevo Herald reporter was, “Don’t look at me, I don’t know what the fuck just happened.”

Is “I don’t know what the fuck just happened,” the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission’s default response when what you do makes no sense, because clearly what you have done really makes no sense.

However, the one good thing about Commissioner Sarnoff is that although like all sociopaths he thinks he’s smartest guy in the room, he continues to be a gift that keeps on giving.

I am submitting a new ethics complaint about the Commissioner and his wife’s junket to a new faraway land, and I’ll look forward into how many ways you have to soil your ethics and screw the pooch in order to carry out the mandates of the “Family and Friends Plan” this time.

As always,

An Aggrieved Citizen,

Al Crespo


Miami-Dade Ethics Chairman Charlton Copeland deep in contemplation on the arguments being made by Commissioner “Ethics” Sarnoff and his attorney

It’s Miami, Bitches!


Copy the link below, and it will be a permanent link to this page that you can post on Facebook, or anywhere else.