Two years ago, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez signed off on spending $7,621 from a $10,000 corporate grant for feeding poor children. Instead, the money went to pay for airline tickets and posh hotel accommodations for himself, his chief of staff, a police detective and four other city employees to attend a parks and recreation conference in Las Vegas.
News of Mayor Hernandez’s curious city spending surfaced in documents filed in a recently closed joint public corruption investigation by Miami-Dade’s State Attorney’s Office and Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.
Another strange finding: Hernandez never traveled to Las Vegas to attend the annual conference of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) from Sept. 13-17, 2015, and his whereabouts for seven days remain a mystery.
Hernandez was the investigation’s focus, but he won’t face criminal charges. A close-out memo written by Assistant State Attorney Trent Reichling and obtained by Florida Bulldog concluded that the Sept. 13-19 trip – ending two days after the conference closed – was official city business authorized by a trio of high-ranking Hialeah bureaucrats. Further, authorities found no documentation that the grant provider, the National Recreation and Park Association, had prohibited the use of its corporate grants on travel expenses.