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

Photo of author
Written By Blue & Gold NLR Team



Florida is known for its sunny beaches, theme parks, oranges, and alligators, but it also has a dark side: public corruption. According to U.S. Department of Justice data, Florida had the highest number of federal public corruption convictions between 2000 and 2010. Among the many cities in the Sunshine State, one stands out as the most corrupt: Opa-locka.

Opa-locka: A City in Crisis

Opa-locka is a small municipality in Miami-Dade County with approximately 15,000 residents. It was founded in 1926 by aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss, who incorporated Middle Eastern designs into the city’s early buildings and named streets after characters from Arabian Nights. However, the city’s exotic charm soon gave way to poverty, crime, and corruption.

In 2013, the FBI initiated an investigation into allegations of bribery, extortion, and fraud involving city officials and local businesses. The probe uncovered a pervasive pay-to-play scheme where city employees demanded cash payments for basic services like water, permits, and licenses. The FBI’s 2016 raid on city hall resulted in the arrest of several officials, including the mayor, city manager, and public works director.

The corruption scandal significantly impacted the city’s finances, already strained due to mismanagement and overspending. Accumulating a debt exceeding $13 million, Opa-locka struggled to meet its financial obligations, including paying bills, employees, and vendors. Poor record-keeping further complicated matters, prompting the state to declare a financial emergency in 2016 and appoint an oversight board to manage the city’s budget.

Despite the challenges, some residents and activists attempted to dissolve the city in 2017, advocating for its merger with the county, arguing that the city was beyond repair. Unfortunately, the petition fell short of the required signatures for a referendum.

Can Opa-locka Be Saved?

Despite a grim outlook, some individuals remain hopeful about Opa-locka’s future. New leadership, committed to rectifying issues and restoring trust, has been elected. The city has collaborated with state and federal authorities to implement reforms, addressing legal and financial concerns. Progress has been made in reducing debt, enhancing accounting practices, and boosting revenues.

However, significant challenges persist, and recovery is slow and uncertain. Ongoing lawsuits, audits, and investigations may unveil additional wrongdoing and liabilities. The city continues to grapple with providing sufficient services and infrastructure to residents facing poverty, crime, and blight. Rebuilding its reputation and credibility remains a critical task.


Opa-locka stands as a city in crisis, yet not without hope. While it has earned the title of Florida’s most corrupt city, it is not alone in facing corruption issues. Other cities in the state, such as Tallahassee, have also been accused of unethical and illegal practices by public officials. Corruption is a serious problem that undermines democracy, erodes trust, and wastes resources. It requires vigilance, accountability, and transparency from all stakeholders, including citizens, media, and law enforcement, to combat it. Opa-locka’s story serves as a cautionary tale and a potential catalyst for change.

Leave a Comment