North Miami Beach Mayor Resigns and Begins House Arrest
By Jay Weaver and David Ovalle
The mayor of North Miami Beach on Tuesday agreed to resign from office and accept house arrest as part of a plea deal for violating state-campaign finance laws.
George Vallejo accepted the deal, which was negotiated in advance of being charged with two first-degree misdemeanors. He pleaded guilty to filing a false report by a political action committee and authorized an illegal expenditure by that committee. He accepted the deal during a hearing Tuesday morning in Miami-Dade County court.
He won't have a criminal record because County Judge Samuel Slom withheld the adjudication.
Prosecutors believe Vallejo and his wife used straw companies to divert thousands of dollars in campaign and political committee donations money to pay their personal bills in 2015. His wife was not charged, as part of his plea deal.
As part of the deal, the 51-year-old Vallejo will spend three months confined to his home and 18 months in all on probation. He will also be barred from running for any office during that time, and must complete 500 community-service hours and issue an apology letter.
"It has been an honor to serve the residents of North Miami Beach as your Mayor since 2011. As proud as I am of our achievements, I am equally sorry for the events that bring me to court today," he wrote in a letter issued by his defense attorney Jeffrey Sloman.
"I take full responsibility for my actions and apologize to the citizens of North Miami Beach and look forward to putting this matter behind me."
The investigation into Vallejo was no secret -- on Twitter and Facebook, he acknowledged the existence of the probe in August 2016.
"Anytime we can get someone who breached the public trust, that's a good outcome," said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
Vallejo was first elected as mayor in 2011 and won reelection to another four-year term automatically in 2015 when he faced no challengers.
Despite his fall, Vallejo led a city that strove to reduce crime, generate greater commercial development and boost the property tax base to be more like North Miami Beach's affluent high-rise neighboring cities, Aventura and Sunny Isles Beach. During his tenure, North Miami Beach also privatized garbage pick-ups and retained a private contractor to oversee its substantial water utility, a proposal that drew protests from union members.
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