POLITICS

Makes no cents: Florida mayor sued after trying to pay $4K ethics fine with pennies

DES PLAINES, IL - JULY 06:  Pennies lay in a pile July 6, 2006 in Des Plaines, Illinois. According to the U.S. Mint says a penny costs more to make than it's worth, 1.2 cents, prompting some to call for its demise.  (Photo Illustration by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

DES PLAINES, IL - JULY 06: Pennies lay in a pile July 6, 2006 in Des Plaines, Illinois. According to the U.S. Mint says a penny costs more to make than it's worth, 1.2 cents, prompting some to call for its demise. (Photo Illustration by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)  (2006 Getty Images)

Talk about a real penny pincher.

The mayor of a South Florida town is being sued by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust for trying to pay a $4,000 fine with 28 buckets of pennies and nickels.

Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez also had his fine doubled after the commission ruled that the lawmaker intentionally broke its regulations by sending 360,000 coins – even though he knew the panel accepts only checks.

"On November 6th, the Mayor sent 28 buckets of coins (along with several television crews) in an apparent attempt to pay the fine in disregard of the COE requirement that it be paid by check," the commission said in a statement, according to the Miami Herald. "His ploy was deemed commercially unreasonable and contemptuous by COE staff, and therefore, rejected."

"A small claims complaint was filed in County Court. A hearing was set for Dec. 9 to address the Mayor's non-compliance," the statement added.

Mayor Hernandez has called the complaints leveled against him "a political circus" and described members of the commission as "clowns."

"We tried to pay with U.S. currency and it makes no difference whether they are pennies or nickels … but the coins were not accepted," Hernandez told El Nuevo Herald earlier this month. "They can go to court if they want, but they are going to have to show why a public entity does not accept this country's money."

Hernandez's problems stem from his dealing with scurrilous jewelry salesman Luis Felipe "Felipito" Perez, who was jailed for his involvement in a pyramid scheme. Perez banked around $40 million from various people in the scheme that promised 36 percent return in annual interest.

The commission ruled over the summer that Hernandez lied to citizens – both in Spanish and English – about interest he received from Perez from an $180,000 loan. He was fined $3,000 plus $1,000 for the costs of the investigation.

While Hernandez asserted in 2010, when the case became public, that Perez had paid him only part of the capital he had invested, he later testified that he had actually received more than $100,000 in interest payments from Perez.

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