Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday evening signed an executive order suspending Miami City Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla following his Thursday arrest on a host of corruption charges, including money laundering and bribery.
State law allows the governor to remove elected officials from office if they have been arrested for a felony or misdemeanor related to their duties in office.
The removal is effective immediately.
On Friday evening, City Hall officials were caught off guard by the news that the governor had suspended the commissioner, who is up for reelection in November. The governor’s order landed a day after Díaz de la Portilla was arrested. That’s a swift move in comparison to the governor’s suspension last year of former Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez, which happened about three weeks after Martinez’s arrest.
Díaz de la Portilla, 58, who was elected to the city commission in 2019, is a former state legislator with a decades-long political career. He faces one count of money laundering; three counts of unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior; one count of bribery; one count of criminal conspiracy; four counts of official misconduct; one count of campaign contributions in excess of legal limits, and two counts of failure to report a gift.
City commissioners react
City commissioners now have 10 days to decide if they will appoint a replacement or allow the November election to decide who will fill the District 1 seat.
In an interview Friday night, District 3 Commissioner Joe Carollo said it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on the charges against Díaz de la Portilla. But he did weigh in on how he thinks the commission should proceed.
“From what I know at this point in time, I think that the decision that we have to make, the responsible decision, is to name someone,” he said.
Commissioner Sabina Covo of District 2 issued a written statement.
“Trust in government is paramount and any elected official who undermines that trust does grave harm to democracy,” Covo said. “I ran for city commissioner, and was elected by our residents, to restore faith and honesty to city hall. Yesterday’s news reaffirms that commitment as we MUST all lead with integrity and transparency.”
Regarding the suspension, District 4 Commissioner Manolo Reyes said that “this is normal practice for situations of this type and we must allow the justice process to take its course as well.”
Mayor Francis Suarez and Commission Chairwoman Christine King, who represents District 5, did not immediately respond to the Herald’s requests for comment.
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Díaz de la Portilla’s District 1 includes Allapattah, the Health District, Spring Garden and parts of Flagami and Little Havana.