Bill Fuller, Martin Pinilla sue Miami city employees tied to crackdown

William Fuller and his partner Martin Pinilla beat Joe Carollo in Fort Lauderdale federal court. Now they are going after the city bureaucrats who allegedly allowed the city commissioner to carry out a vendetta against their businesses and properties in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood 

On Nov. 6, Fuller, Pinilla and 13 businesses they own filed a new lawsuit in Miami federal court against Carrollo, the city of Miami and nine city employees, including City Manager Arthur Noriega and City Attorney Victoria Mendez. After winning a $63.5 million jury verdict against Carollo for which he is personally liable, the Little Havana developers are now seeking additional damages against the city for more than $60 million. 

“These defendants — a government machine mobilized by Carollo — have used unlimited resources of taxpayer money to corrupt city staff members as part of their yearslong effort to drive plaintiffs and their businesses into bankruptcy,” the new complaint states. “In addition, the city — at the direction of Carollo, Mendez and Noriega — has spent more than $15 million in taxpayer money in an endless effort to exhaust and destroy plaintiffs through a legal minefield by filing bogus and frivolous claims.”

The city of Miami will “vigorously defend” itself against the latest complaint, which “strings together unsubstantiated allegations, questionable statements of purported fact with anecdotes that are self-serving to sway public opinion,” a city spokesperson said in an email statement. 

Fuller and Pinilla are attempting to “intimidate the hardworking and vigilant city employees that are merely doing their jobs under the law,” the statement said. 

The lawsuit alleges Miami officials “weaponized” code enforcement and other city agencies to crack down on businesses and properties owned by Fuller and Pinilla, who are the largest landowners in Little Havana. They co-own several commercial buildings including Ball & Chain bar and nightclub, Calle Ocho Marketplace, the Little Havana Arts Building and The Tower Hotel. 

Immediately after winning the District 3 Miami City Commission seat in 2017, Carollo was locked in a caustic battle with Fuller and Pinilla, who supported a different candidate. 

Five months ago, a federal jury found Carollo guilty of violating Fuller’s and Pinilla’s First Amendment rights. Former high-ranking city officials, including ex-City Manager Emilio Gonzalez, and two ex-police chiefs, testified that Carollo pressured them and staff to target businesses and properties owned by Fuller and Pinilla. 

There is also a third pending federal lawsuit involving Fuller and Pinilla against the city of Miami. Mad Room Hospitality, a company they co-own with their partners Zach and Ben Bush, is seeking $27.9 million in damages against the city. 

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