Florida Politics

Alleged Blackmail, Venezuelan Spy, and Security Breach: Doral Councilwoman Accused of Power Abuse

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DORAL, FL—Embattled Doral Mayor Christi Fraga and her assistant—who faces unusual claims of being a Venezuelan spy—are accusing city councilwoman Maureen Porras of using taxpayer money to turn City Hall into "her own law firm".

Fraga's Chief of Staff, Marion Troitino, filed an ethics complaint against Porras on May 6th. She alleged that the councilwoman—who also works as a pro bono immigration attorney—was working with her personal clients via the city's computer, violating three separate codes in county and city statutes.

"This is a clear abuse of power—she was running her own little law firm out of City Hall," Fraga told The Floridian. "It is illegal for her to use public City Council resources (paid by taxpayers) for private legal work, regardless of whether it's pro bono or paid work. But she'll soon have to admit her illegal actions."

Maria Rodriguez—Porras' former assistant—was also implicated, as Troitino and Fraga claimed she accessed, worked on, and edited Porras' immigration files.

Rodriguez told The Floridian it was all true.

"She would MAKE me do immigration work from her city computer for residents so that she could get 'votes', sometimes it was for her family and friends," Rodriguez wrote in a text message. "I had to do the work as if it was her,"

"Ms. Porras is not an ethical person at all which is why I had to terminate my employment with the City of Doral, and she hates Mayor Fraga and her Chief of Staff," Rodriguez continued, alleging that Porras would tell her to "meet in her office and not let anyone see me or hear me."

"I want to speak up because the last months working with her were hell for me. She was so humiliating and nasty to me that I want people to know who Maureen Porras really is," she concluded.

Porras, meanwhile, said she was "shocked" by Rodriguez's "untrue" comments, telling The Floridian she was a good employee who never gave any indication of feeling that way. She maintained that "the allegations are not true" but "even if they were—there's nothing in the ethics code that would indicate that's a violation."

While she declined to comment on any other aspects of the ethics investigation, worried she would "involuntarily waive her confidentiality," she revealed that as an immigration attorney who works for a non-profit, she doesn't take individual cases, but provides information and services to various clients.

This is only the latest headline starring the Doral politicians.

Last week, Fraga, a Republican, came under fire from Porras, a Democrat, for sponsoring a unanimously approved Israel-Palestine ceasefire resolution. When Fraga rescinded it and tried to introduce a pro-Israel statement in its stead, Porras joined three other council members in voting it down.

"Since she couldn't read two pages of a city resolution I'm assuming she also doesn't read Florida law," Fraga said, swiping at Porras initially voting for the ceasefire before condemning it days later.

"She is Not Your Legal Aide!": Security "Breach" Kicks it Off

The discovery of Porras' alleged wrongdoing sprung from a computer glitch in late January, when IT discovered that staffers could access files belonging to Porras and another member. Usually, members would have to electronically permit others to access their folders.

The problem was resolved within 48 hours.

Porras, however, was anxious about what she called a "security breach", despite IT stressing in a January memo that it was not a breach, but a processing error.

"When the breach was discovered, I called a special meeting because I heard that files had been breached," Porras told The Floridian, explaining she wanted an audit examining who clicked on what folders during the so-called breach.

When she got the audit report, she noticed "Marion Troitino accessed 59 of my files in almost an hour...breaking confidentiality," Porras alleged. She subsequently filed an ethics complaint against Troitino in April, claiming a violation of Florida privacy laws.

Troitino denied this, pointing to memos documenting that IT staff, to test if the server issue was fixed, clicked on Porras' files from various staffers' computers—including Troitino's.

Then, Troitino filed a complaint against Porras.

"These defamatory allegations against me are meritless and completely false," Troitino wrote. "I am addressing these false accusations that were made against me because they provide the backdrop for what I discovered in defending my professional and personal reputation."

"Based upon my review...it appears that [Porras'] documents...relate to her law practice as an immigration attorney and not to the City of Doral official duties," Troitino continued, pointing to the illegality of maintaining dozens of non-city related folders.

Troitino turned to Porras' assistant Rodriguez, explaining that the audit report showed that Rodriguez had accessed, worked on, and edited Porras' immigration files.

"Her and her assistant had been working on all of these immigration files—naturalization forms, etc—thousands of files, that they were working on at City Hall," Fraga said. "Porras filed a complaint against Troitino saying she accessed her files, but why is your assistant accessing those files? She is not your legal aide!"

Venezuelan Agents and...Blackmail?

This isn't Troitino's first brush with alleged "defamatory" statements. Thursday night, Telemundo reported that Troitino is connected to tyrant Fidel Castro, the authoritarian Venezuelan government, its dictator Nicolas Maduro, and its past dictator Hugo Chavez.

Why? Because her father, Mario Villarroel, was president of the International Red Cross in the 1990s in Venezuela, leading him to travel worldwide and be photographed with world leaders like U.S. President Bill Clinton, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Princess Diana of Wales, Spanish Royalty, and yes—Castro.

"My assistant and her family have no ties to the Venezuelan government," Fraga said, defending Troitino. "The photos that have been circulated of Mario Villarroel are in his role as the international president of the Red Cross where he has photos with leaders from across the world."

"Interesting how they decided not to use those other photos," she added, referencing Telemundo exclusively pushing a photo of Villaroel with Castro.

Fraga moved to her next topic: alleged blackmail and retaliation.

"These are just baseless smear campaigns and tactics," Fraga continued. "I’d also like to point out that the same people who are making these claims are the same people suing the city and are clearly personally upset with me because I took away their lifetime pensions!"

Last year, Fraga spearheaded the charge to abolish a 2021 ordinance retroactively granting $25,000 to $114,000 in retirement pensions to elected city officials. This, she says, angered former leaders who passed the measure—causing them to sue the city.

She believes this group—JC Bermudez, Pete Cabrera, Michael DiPietro, and Sandra Ruiz—along with current Vice Mayor Oscar Puig-Corve, to be behind the "baseless" attacks on her Chief of Staff. She also wonders if they discovered Porras' allegedly illegal files and blackmailed her into condemning Fraga—her former ally—and her associates.

"I was keeping this quiet because I value the reputation of Doral, and my goal is not to create a circus," Fraga said. "But now that they're coming out with these baseless claims and creating the circus and the scandals themselves, now I have to show the proof of why they're doing this,"

"It's because they are the scandals, they are the corrupt ones, and they don't want me here because I will expose everything they're doing and I will not allow this government center to be used as their private business and open checkbook," she continued.

She turned to Porras, claiming that when Puig-Corve and other "corrupt" council members "discovered" Porras' immigration folders, "I think they may have threatened her or told her they could protect her. Were they blackmailing her? I don't know. There's no other reason for her to have flipped like that."

Fraga referenced that she and Porras ran on the same "slate" together, which is when a group of candidates run on a common platform.

When The Floridian asked Porras if she was blackmailed, she laughed incredulously, responding:

"If anything that's something that Fraga would do," she said. "From my experience with her, she would be the one to try to do something that she thinks can hurt me and threaten to use it against me,"

"That's more her behavior than anyone else's."

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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