Upgrade: Miami-Dade mayor’s free Qatar trip was pricier than first disclosed

·2 min read
The Ministry of Municpality, Qatar

The free airline tickets Miami-Dade County’s mayor accepted for a complimentary tour of Qatar were more expensive than the amount her office disclosed five weeks ago.

When the Miami Herald first reported on Qatar paying to play host to Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and other government officials in late May, her office said the complimentary round-trip airline tickets provided by the monarchy’s U.S. embassy were valued at about $1,400.

But a gift disclosure form released Friday shows the ticket actually was worth $8,750, about five times the original value. The mayor’s chief of staff, Johanna Cervone, also received a free ticket for the same amount, according to correspondence attached to the disclosure filed this week.

READ MORE: Miami-Dade mayor on a free trip to Qatar, a client of her campaign chief. He’s there too

A member of Qatar’s Florida-based lobbying team sent an email to the mayor’s office this week updating a prior value of the tickets for Levine Cava and Cervone. The reason: Levine Cava and Cervone traveled business class on Qatari Air, the government-owned airline, while the mayor’s office provided coach prices in May.

“Please note that the airfare costs were higher than previously estimated as the airline was able to provide a courtesy upgrade to both on the day of travel,” Jacqui Carmona, a lobbyist for Rubin Turnbull, wrote to Levine Cava assistant Jeannette Vazquez on Tuesday.

In the days after the trip, the mayor’s office released a blank booking document showing a Miami-to-Doha round-trip ticket valued at $1,355. As of Friday afternoon, the mayor’s office has not provided correspondence related to the trip that the Miami Herald requested May 24 under Florida’s open-records laws.

The state gift disclosure form due this week covers March through May. The three-night Qatar trip was Levine Cava’s only reported gift, valued at $10,160 in all. Meals and lodging, including a free stay the Ritz-Carlton Doha, were valued at $1,410.

The trip included county commissioners Oliver Gilbert and Keon Hardemon and Miami commissioners Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Christine King. Qatar provided free travel and accommodations to the delegation. Gilbert’s office released documents showing he was given a business-class ticket to Qatar as well.

Levine Cava’s 2020 campaign manager, Christian Ulvert, has a contract to provide public-relations services to Qatar’s U.S. embassy. He and Carmona joined Levine Cava and the other officials on the trip.

Levine Cava, who listed a net worth of about $6 million in her most recent financial disclosure form, said the trip was in part to look at Qatar’s preparations for its World Cup tournament this year ahead of Miami-Dade planning to host some games in 2026. She also said she discussed with Qatari officials “ways we can partner on transit investments.”

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