Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco, also an attorney, resigned Tuesday as he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of violating campaign finance law.
Grieco came under scrutiny after a Miami Herald investigation uncovered ties to a political action committee, which led to a criminal charge of accepting a political donation from a straw donor. The 42-year-old pleaded no contest Tuesday morning and will serve one year of probation, according to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
He was represented by Miami attorney Benedict Kuehne.
When the Herald began the investigation this summer, Grieco told reporters, “It is absolutely untrue. You can look right into my soul.” But a Herald handwriting analysis linked him to the committee, People for Better Leaders, which raised $200,000 from developers, lobbyists and others as Grieco started a mayoral campaign.
According to the State Attorney’s Office charging documents, in April 2016 Grieco accepted $25,000 from Norwegian businessman Petter Hagland in the name of real estate agent Tony Rodriguez to the PAC.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said her office’s investigation indicated Grieco directed Hagland, a foreign national, to make the donation illegally through the straw donor.
“Unfortunately, Commissioner Grieco, a young rising star, whose constituency was completely devoted to him, has tumbled out of office because no one can go around the law,” Rundle said. “No one is above the law, there are no exceptions to the law. … Mr. Grieco had a wonderful future, and unfortunately, this shortcut has derailed him from the position he’s in now and he may not hold public office for the year he is on probation.”
The Florida Bar has an open disciplinary investigation into Grieco’s PAC-related conduct, a bar spokesperson said Tuesday.
Grieco, a solo practitioner with an office in the Brickell area, has one infraction on his Florida Bar record. He was publicly reprimanded in 2008 for an ethics violation as a Miami-Dade prosecutor for meeting with detectives on an assault case without making it clear he was friends with one of the accused.
The detectives said they gave Grieco more information than they would have if they’d known he was there in a personal capacity, not in his role as an assistant state attorney, according to the consent judgment Grieco signed.
After his resignation from the Miami Beach City Commission, Grieco said he plans to “redirect some of my public service energies back into my law practice and philanthropy,” joking that his family is also considering a Disney annual pass.
“Soon I will be transitioning my civil and criminal trial practice physically back to Miami Beach, but with a new wrinkle: I will also be providing pro bono governmental consulting services to select disenfranchised residents, neighborhood associations and non-profit organizations who need assistance navigating Miami Beach City Hall,” he said Tuesday in a message to supporters. “Our relationship with you and the city may be different in a formal way, but the emotional commitment will not be changing when it comes to protecting and improving our quality of life as a community.”