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Is Medley mayoral candidate’s campaign built on a house of deception?

Medley Police Lt. Arturo Jinete, who is running for mayor of the tiny town, lists this unfinished home as his residence. (Credit: Francisco Alvarado)

Arturo Jinete, a police lieutenant in Medley, is running for mayor of the 1,032-person town he patrols. But whether Jinete meets the residential requirement for elected office in the tiny Miami-Dade County hamlet remains an open question. 

Jinete, who is married to Medley Police Chief Jeanette Said-Jinete, announced his intention to run back in May. He is challenging incumbent Mayor Roberto Martell. To qualify for the ballot in November, Jinete is required by the town charter to have established residency by July of last year. 

Arturo Jinete (Courtesy: Medley Police Dept.)

The Florida Trident, however, found that the little Medley house where Jinete has claimed official residency is not suitable for living. The 912-square-foot residence has been under construction since he bought it for $135,000 on June 29, 2023, public records show. The non-descript abode, little more at this time than a concrete box, is a far cry from the sprawling $1.5 million home in Southwest Ranches he’s lived in for more than 20 years with his wife. 

No one was in the unfinished house in Miami-Dade County during five separate visits made by the Trident in April and May. The structure is just a concrete shell with a roof, front door and windows. A large construction dumpster sat in front and there was no electricity.  During the fifth visit, a construction crew was working inside the otherwise uninhabited house.

When questioned about his residency during a May 30 phone interview, Jinete refused to say where he lives in Medley or why an unfinished house is listed as his address of record on the qualifying paperwork filed May 5. 

Jinete’s Medley residence appears uninhabitable. (Credit: Francisco Alvarado)

On May 16, one day after the Trident submitted a public records request to the Town of Medley for a building permit and related documents, Jinete amended his candidate qualifying form, claiming an exemption from publicly disclosing his address because he is a law enforcement officer.

“I have established my residency prior to the qualifying date of last year in July,” Jinete said in the phone interview. “I have done my due diligence to qualify as a candidate. I have done everything correctly and according to the book.” 

Double-dipping Medley police chief pulling in $314,000 in salary, pension 

Jinete and his wife have spent their entire law enforcement careers in Medley, he said. When Said-Jinete was hired in 1984, she was the town’s first female police officer, according to her two-sentence bio on the Medley Police Department website. Said-Jinete, who was named police chief in 2012, did not respond to phone and text messages seeking comment. 

Chief Said-Jinette (Courtesy: Medley Police Dept.)

She retired as a full-time employee in 2020, according to town records. However, the same year, the Medley Town Council voted to give Said-Jinete a new employment contract to remain as police chief at an annual salary of $163,811 while collecting her annual $150,113 retirement pension, Medley records show. Her contract expires on Oct. 7, a month before the upcoming election. 

Jinete was hired in 1991, according to his one-sentence bio on the town’s website. He told the Trident he plans to retire this year. Jinete, who currently earns $125,793 a year, said he does not report to his wife: “There’s a captain between us.” 

If Jinete was elected mayor this fall, he would likely see a significant raise. The town’s top elected post currently pays an annual salary of $207,729. The median household income in Medley is $38,583 annually, according to 2022 Census data. 

Jinete with his wife, Medley Police Chief Jeanette Said-Jinete, and
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (Courtesy: X/Diaz-@MarioDB)

The work dynamic between husband and wife would also change. In Medley, the police chief reports directly to the mayor, who is the town’s top administrator.

Two Town of Medley officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely, said Jinete has told residents at town events, including a luncheon for the elderly and in conversations with some rank-and-file officers, that a primary reason he’s running is to get a new contract for his wife.

Jinete vehemently denied making any comments about extending his spouse’s contract. “That statement was never made,” he said. “That is a lie.” 

Jinete switches residency to Medley

Jinete and his wife, who married in 2006, have lived in Southwest Ranches in Broward County – roughly 21 miles north of Medley – for the past two decades. The couple has a 4,108-square-foot residence with a pool that Said-Jinete bought for $110,000 in 1998, according to the Broward County property appraiser’s office. Jinete is not on the deed, only his wife. The home has a market value of $1.5 million.

If elected mayor, Jinete would be giving up the serene confines of Southwest Ranches to live in Medley, a small enclave made up of mostly industrial warehouses, storage yards and mobile homes. 

Jinete’s Medley residence appears uninhabitable.
(Credit: Francisco Alvarado)

“I have been serving that community for 33 years,” Jinete said. “This is my thank you to show them what I learned there.”  

The Jinetes have also dabbled in real estate investments in the Town of Medley. 

In 2018, through a corporation they own called Quantico 4:13 Investments, LLC, the couple paid $280,000 for a residential property in Medley and sold it two years later for $355,000, according to Miami-Dade property records.

State corporate records list the Southwest Ranches home as the official address for Quantico since 2018. But in March of this year, Quantico’s annual report submitted to the Florida Secretary of State shows the Medley unfinished home as Jinete’s address and the Southwest Ranches residence as his wife’s address.

Quantico paid $135,000 for the Medley property in June of last year and began renovating a mobile home into a more permanent structure. A month later, the Medley building department slapped a stop-work order on a blue tarp covering the mobile home for alleged code violations.

In November of 2023, four months after the stop-work order, the Jinetes submitted an application to begin work on the property before permits were issued, town records show. The official notice of commencement was filed on Jan. 15 and the building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical permits were approved on Feb. 1. 

State’s residency requirements for elections have legal loopholes

On May 8, the Jinetes turned in revised drawings and, a day later, the town issued an updated building permit, town records show. 

When asked if he and Said-Jinete plan on living together in Medley should he be elected mayor, Jinete was non-committal.

“I can’t jump the gun,” Jinete said. “We are taking it day by day. She is living in her house and I have been living in Medley.” 

Even if it can be proven Jinete is not actually resting his head every night in Medley, he wouldn’t necessarily face disqualification from the mayoral race, said Juan-Carlos Planas, a St. Thomas University adjunct law professor and Miami-based attorney specializing in election law. 

In 2017, Planas represented Alfonso “Aflie” Leon, who lost a run-off to Joe Carollo for the Miami City Commission District 3 race. Leon sued to have Carollo disqualified by alleging his opponent did not establish residency in District 3 a year prior to the qualifying date. 

In 2018, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Thomas Rebull dismissed Leon’s lawsuit following a bench trial in which Carollo and other witnesses testified that he signed a lease for an apartment in District 3, as well as moved in and stayed in the apartment in the 12 months prior to the 2017 election qualifying date. The Third District Court of Appeal also dismissed Leon’s appellate petition to overturn Rebull’s verdict, records show. 

“The courts tend to treat intent as the main thing,” said Planas, a former state legislator who is running for Miami-Dade elections supervisor. . “Even if the house is under construction and is not habitable, if his driver’s license [is registered to the address], he can receive mail there and is registered to vote there – that is establishing residency. That is showing intent.” 

Jinete, meanwhile, insisted he has been a town resident since last summer. “I am living in Medley,” he said. “I give you my word that I am doing the right thing.” 

About the author: Francisco Alvarado is an investigative journalist based in Miami whose work has appeared in The Daily Beast, The Guardian and The Washington Post.