The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust has issued a “letter of instruction” rebuking state Rep. Michael Grieco for twice violating the Citizens’ Bill of Rights during his term as a Miami Beach commissioner.
The commission, an independent body that imposes civil penalties on county and municipal elected officials and employees, took the action this past week after it unanimously found in December that Grieco violated the Citizens’ Bill of Rights by falsely portraying his involvement with the political action committee People for Better Leaders.
It ordered him to pay $1,000 to cover costs.
A third allegation that Grieco indirectly solicited a contribution from a city vendor, contrary to a city ordinance, was dismissed.
The “letter of instruction,” addresses the two violations of false portrayal: when he told the Miami Herald, which revealed his links to the PAC, “I do not have a political committee. I didn’t set one up. I haven’t solicited one,” and then again when he told the Herald, “It is absolutely untrue . . . You can look right into my soul.”
Evidence and testimony commissioners reviewed over the course of a multi-day December hearing — including sworn statements from donors and the chairman of the PAC — indicated that Grieco was actually actively involved in creating, operating, coordinating and funding the committee.
Its donors included people who were city vendors or lobbyists. Grieco was weighing a run for mayor at the time.
“There can be no genuine consent and no meaningful self-government when politicians mislead the citizenry,” the commission’s letter reads. “It is our sincere hope that by going through the complaint process and receiving this Letter of Instruction that it has impressed upon you, the importance of compliance with the [...] Citizens’ Bill of Rights. You are reminded that it is often the mere appearance of impropriety that shakes the public’s trust in their government. We hope that you will use this Letter of Instruction to guide your future conduct while in public office.”
In a statement to the Herald, Grieco’s attorney Ben Kuehne said, “this is not a matter for which the Commission on Ethics should have taken any action. The Letter of Instruction only confirms what Rep. Grieco has long known and understands: He has and will continue to speak directly to the public on matters of interest in a straightforward manner. The public has elected Rep. Grieco because he is a tireless and fearless advocate for the public’s interest.”
Grieco offered his own observation in a statement, reading in part: “It’s 2021 and we are apparently still grasping to talk about events in 2017, prior to my 2018 election to the Florida House and unopposed return in 2020. While some are bent on rehashing or retelling misleading and false narratives, I am laser-focused on how to best serve my 160,000+ constituents.”
Though its total costs to handle the complaint were actually $2,316.70, the commission charged Grieco $500 per each violation — the maximum the commission can levy. Grieco has until July to pay the $1,000.
Well before the ethics matter was taken up, Grieco pleaded no contest in court to a misdemeanor charge for accepting a campaign donation in the name of another in connection with his role in the PAC. He was given 12 months probation, which was shortened to six months for good behavior. He resigned from the City Commission — then, after his punishment was served, successfully ran to represent Miami Beach in the state Legislature.