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This Florida City Has Been Named the Most Corrupt City in the State

Florida is well-known for its alligators, oranges, amusement parks, and beautiful beaches, but it also has a negative aspect: public corruption. Between 2000 and 2010, Florida had the greatest number of federal convictions for public corruption, according to data from the U.S. Department of Justice. Out of all the cities in the Sunshine State, Opa-locka is the most crooked.

Opa-locka: A City in Crisis

With about 15,000 citizens, Opa-locka is a minor municipality in Miami-Dade County. The city was established in 1926 by aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss, who named streets after characters from Arabian Nights and included Middle Eastern architectural elements into the city’s early structures. But the unique appeal of the city was quickly replaced by corruption, crime, and poverty.

The FBI opened an investigation in 2013 into claims that local companies and city officials were involved in bribery, extortion, and fraud. The investigation revealed a widespread pay-to-play system in which municipal workers requested cash payments for necessities such as water, licenses, and permits. The mayor, city manager, and director of public works were among the people taken into custody during the FBI raid on city hall in 2016.

The city’s finances, which were already under stress from poor administration and excessive spending, were severely harmed by the corruption scandal. Opa-locka struggled to make ends meet and eventually racked up debt over $13 million, which included paying bills, staff, and vendors. An oversight board was appointed in 2016 to oversee the city’s budget after the state declared a financial emergency due to poor record-keeping.

Despite the difficulties, a few citizens and activists tried to dissolve the city in 2017 and supported merging it with the county on the grounds that it could not be saved. Regretfully, not enough signatures were collected on the petition to have a referendum.

Can Opa-locka Be Saved?

Even with a dire prognosis, some people have hope for Opa-locka’s future. A new leadership has been elected with the goal of resolving problems and fostering confidence. In order to execute reforms that address legal and financial issues, the city has worked with federal and state authorities. There has been improvement in accounting procedures, debt reduction, and revenue growth.

But there are still major obstacles to overcome, and recuperation is sluggish and unpredictable. Further misbehavior and liabilities can come to light during ongoing legal actions, audits, and investigations. The city still struggles to provide enough infrastructure and services to people living in poverty, violence, and blight. Regaining its credibility and reputation is still a crucial effort.


Although under turmoil, Opa-locka is a city full of promise. Although it has been dubbed the most corrupt city in Florida, it is not the only place where corruption is a problem. Public officials have accused other cities in the state, including Tallahassee, of engaging in unethical and criminal tactics. Corruption is a severe issue that damages democracy, eats away at confidence, and wastes money. To combat it, all stakeholders—citizens, media, and law enforcement—need to be vigilant, accountable, and transparent. The tale of Opa-locka is both a warning and a possible source of inspiration for improvement.

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