JANUARY 26, 2015







You would think by now that there is not a single politician or bureaucrat in Miami-Dade County who doesn’t know that if they accept free tickets to events where their attendance is to have a good time and enjoy the show or event as passive spectators then they have to report the acceptance of tickets to these events because Florida law has defined the acceptance of these tickets as “gifts.”

Not only have I written about this problem repeatedly, but the Ethics Commission has issued guidelines about this. Somehow though, it seems that some public officials never get the message, or perhaps they’ve developed such an exalted sense of entitlement that they believe that they’re not subject to Florida’s Ethics Laws, just like the Governor seems to believe he’s not subject to Florida’s Public Records Law.

Take Alberto Carvalho, Miami’s Superintendent of Schools. In the process of gathering information last December on the activities of the Queen Of Swag’s penchant for taking free stuff, I spent some time pursuing various internet society websites, and on almost every single one I found photos of Carvalho and his wife at some Gala or fancy dress Ball, decked out and posing like movie stars on the red carpet at a movie premiere.

From the photos on these sites, they clearly appeared to be fixtures on the Black Tie and Ball Gown circuit.

To satisfy my curiosity as to whether Carvalho had ever reported receiving tickets to attend these events I sent a public records request up to the Florida Ethics Commission in Tallahassee to see if he had ever filed a FORM 9, which is the document that is used in declaring “gifts,” and sure enough, the response came back that Carvalho seemed never to have filed a FORM 9 in his life.

On December 17th, I sent a public records request to the School Board asking for the copies of any FORM 9’s that Carvalho might have filled out but never bothered to file, and here’s when it started getting interesting.

After failing to receive any response to my initial request, I filed a followup request on January 5th, and a 3rd request on January 12th, threatening to file a lawsuit if I didn’t get the documents I was asking for. On January 14th, I received a copy of this heart warming Holiday Message that had been sent out before Christmas with a response that said that the Superintendent’s Christmas message spelled out his policy on gifts, and since he didn’t take gifts, therefore he didn’t file FORM 9’s.

It made my heart go all pitter-patter to know that any gifts that the Superintendent did receive from the school children and their parents would be donated to charitable organizations, but of course there’s a big, big difference and a lot of hypocrisy between deciding not to accept some cheap gift or box of homemade cookies from some school kid or parent, and accepting tickets to the Arsht Center’s Annual Gala worth $2,500 a piece, which by now I was convinced that he had.

Under the circumstances, this message ruined my New Year’s feelings of happiness and joy because it was obvious that Carvalho’s PR flunky thought he could Rope-A-Dope me with a bullshit Christmas Message from the Superintendent as a way to evade providing me with the information about the Superintendent’s accepting free tickets to all the Galas and Balls I had photos of him and his wife attending.

I responded to this Christmas message with a message of my own.

My email prompted a subsequent phone conversation with Ms. Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, another of Carvalho’s image molders who assured me that I was not being Rope-A-Doped, and that I would receive a response within the next 7 days. On the evening of the 6th day, I got this response.

Of course no one would object to Carvalho getting in for free to events if he was receiving or giving an award, or giving a speech, because those are activities that fall under what is considered “public purpose,” and are exempt when it comes reporting.

Those weren’t the kinds of events that I was curious about.  I was curious about the events where he and wifey dressed up, showed up, watched the show, mingled with the crowd and posed for photos. That activity is described as “passive attendance.”

The easiest way to categorize “public purpose” from “passive attendance” is that if the public official wasn’t part of any official program and didn’t stand up on the stage at some point in the event and say something into a microphone then that public official was more than likely NOT exempt from declaring the ticket for the event on a FORM 9.

Attempting to justify accepting free tickets on the claim that he was  “acting as a good will ambassador on behalf of M-DCPS” is just a kind of double-speak, gobble-gook used in an attempt to dance around the law.

“Good will ambassador” is another term for describing a freeloader cashing in on his public position, and in Carvalho’s case, conveniently failing to acknowledge that the free tickets that he accepted also included an additional ticket for his wife.

When a public official takes a ticket for either husband or wife so they can  tag along to an event, whether he performs a “public function,” or not, those tickets need to be reported. 

Even though Carvalho’s behavior is subject to oversight by the Florida Ethics Commission and not the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission, here is a portion of the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission Letter of Instruction to the City of Miami over their own ticket abuses that references an opinion issued by the Florida Ethics Commission on how tickets for spouses should be handled. It serves as a handy guide on reporting requirements when spouses going along for the ride. 

So just what are talking about here when I talk about free tickets?  Well, for starters, the tickets for the Arsht Center Annual Gala start at $2500 a piece, and the photo at the top of this story, and the middle photo above are Carvalho and his wife attending the 2013 and 2014 galas. I also have photos of them attending the 2012 Gala. That comes to 6 tickets @ $2500 each, totaling $15,000 right off the bat.

I didn’t spend a lot of time digging, but I’m pretty sure that if someone did, they’d probably find that the Carvalho’s have attended most, if not all of the 8 annual events, so that alone would run up the total just for these tickets - if the tickets always started at $2500 a piece - to as much as $40,000.

Then there are all the other Galas and Balls that they’ve attended - and I’ll admit that I don’t have anywhere near a complete record of those, but based on ticket prices that other public officials who attended these same Galas and Balls and DID file FORM 9’s claimed that their tickets cost, then the value of all the tickets that Carvalho has accepted for him and wifey to attend all of those events could conservatively total another $8,000 - $10,000 - $12,000.

And since I think I’ve established that he’s taken tickets that he didn’t report to event where he and his wife were just passive attendees, what else could he have taken that he didn’t bother to report?  That’s a problem with being a sneak about refusing to admit that you’ve taken tickets worth possibly tens of thousands of dollars. It opens you up to speculation that you’re capable of taking other “gifts” and keeping them a secret too.

Sometimes PR flacks manage to be too smart-ass for their own good and I especially loved the line in the response I got that says, “Be that as it may, any time is a good time to review protocols to ensure full compliance with disclosure agreements.”

I couldn’t agree more, and to help him to do that, I’m filing a complaint with the Florida Ethics Commission, so that they can help him with that review and make sure that he starts setting a better example for the kiddies whose Christmas cookies he passes on the the homeless folks.

It’s Miami, Bitches!

Wherever Alberto went, wifey was sure to be at his side.