Joe Garcia Releases Campaign Video Featuring Otis Wallace, South Florida's Shadiest Mayor
But this is Florida. So, of course, Garcia is doing everything possible to undermine his own chances, starting with his first general campaign video. It features several Florida City locations before showing local mayor Otis Wallace -- who might just be the shadiest mayor in the state.
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- Otis Wallace, Florida City's "Mayor For Life," Is Corrupt With Power
This past February, we published a three-month investigation into Wallace, who has held office for nearly 30 years. This is what we found:
- Wallace repeatedly called the police on his own sister, Gayle Marshall, and had her booted from their mother's house
- Despite making what was until recently a meager public official's salary, Wallace now owns at least 15 properties worth several million dollars. The crown jewel is a $1.7 million waterfront house on Key Largo. He also owns land across the state and in Hawaii.
- In 2009, Wallace's own public works director Darin Baldwin Sr., told the FBI and Miami Dade Police that the mayor was corrupt. Baldwin claimed that Wallace routinely accepted bribes of $5,000 and $10,000 in exchange for permits and contracts.
- Baldwin also claimed that the mayor sold his vote in exchange for land worth $1 million, which he allegedly used to buy the property in the Keys.
- Although there is no record of the shady land deal, New Times discovered that in 2002, Tomas Mesa -- Wallace's director of building and zoning -- bought two parcels of industrial-use land in Florida City. Mesa had the land rezoned as residential in June 2003, and sold it for four times as much ($810,000) just weeks later.
- Finally, two of Wallace's political opponents claimed that the mayor uses a convicted felon to manipulate absentee ballots in order to stay in power. New Times interviewed several Florida City residents who admitted that the boletero helped them fill out their ballots and gave "suggestions" on who to vote for. We also confirmed with half a dozen locals that they spoke to the FBI about possible absentee voter fraud.
(Wallace denied all of the allegations except for the family feud. He said his sister had no right to live in the house.)
And yet, there Wallace is in the video with Garcia. The reason is obvious. The newly created 26th congressional district stretches south from Miami and includes Florida City, where Wallace remains popular.
Jeffrey Garcia, a spokesman for Joe Garcia's campaign, said that the candidate was "proud" to have Wallace's endorsement.
"I'm sure that after 30 years of public service Wallace has his critics," Garcia said, adding that he first learned of the New Times investigation yesterday. "But I've always heard nothing but great things about Mayor Wallace from people who live in that community."
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