By Ettore Sabatella
Yet again, the Doral Council meeting made news. Not because the city is doing wonderful things for its residents, or because we have won awards for good governance or “best city to live in the U.S.” It is because there has been another feud, this time between Manager Joe Carollo and a Venezuelan investor, the now famous Juan Carlos Tovar, a friend of the Mayor, his family and former client.
Tovar filed a police report against the Manager for alleged racism and violence following the meeting on Wednesday. Few hours after the incident, Mayor Luigi Boria called for another Special Meeting to take place on Monday, September 30th with a variety of items on the agenda: from Downtown Doral Park to surveillance cameras. But the most important item was in reference to a letter concerning City Manager Joe Carollo. Doral may be facing a lawsuit. The city has received a letter signed by Tovar’s lawyer, Jesus Suarez, asking the City Clerk to retain all records, including any videos, as possible evidence of what transpired Wednesday night. Failure to do so, the letter states, “could result in the impermissible and unlawful spoliation of evidence.” This opens more questions. What would you do if you are Doral Police Chief Bloom? Should a Police Department investigate its own boss? Wouldn’t it be better to ask the County Police to step in or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)?
The special meeting scheduled for 9:30am was delayed for 30 minutes and despite the presence of several Doral residents and media representatives, the meeting was cancelled due to a lack of quorum. Besides Mayor Luigi Boria, only Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz was present. But what the Mayor requested before the meeting was adjourned tells us the relationship between the Mayor and the Manager is not getting any better. He wants the Doral council to evaluate the Manager’s performance, only nine months after becoming the city manager. The Mayor told us if the Manager “is doing a good job, then we would like him to continue doing it, if not, then things will need to be corrected,” he added.
As we have stated before on this column, when Boria and Carollo teamed up to become Doral’s new Mayor and Manager, Boria needed Carollo’s political expertise and experience. And many thought this would be a way for Carollo to come back after many years of absence into the public arena.
The September 27th Doral meeting also dealt with a very important item, the city’s budget which kicks in starting October 1st. As we know, the manager decided to reduce the employees’ benefits mid-year, something that according to him may end up saving hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars down the road. Given the financial health of some municipalities, Carollo is not off the mark. In the end, no city is isolated. News headlines about cities in trouble keep making national news. Detroit’s bankruptcy and Miami’s dispute with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) are just a few.
It was in an atmosphere of government corruption during his years in the city of Miami where the city manager learned the ropes to avoid it. So far, he has never been accused of corruption or unethical conduct. But now he’s walking on a mine field. Mayor Boria wants to evaluate his performance which undoubtedly is linked to what happened with Mr. Tovar. Carollo is also confronting accusations of racism, violence and calling an investor “venezolano de mier…” Knowing that Mr. Carollo is married to a Venezuelan, we honestly doubt he referred to Venezuelans in that way. But when it comes to “chavistas”, that may be a different story.
And talking about chavistas, they say crazy people sometimes tell the truth. We are far from agreeing with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, but what he said last week may not be too far from reality. During a TV interview Maduro stated that Miami is a refuge for corrupt people from Venezuela and the rest of Latin America. Obviously, that’s not totally true and ironically, even chavistas are coming to the US to invest here and maybe laundry many illegal businesses.
We don’t know how this new chapter in Doral is going to end. What we know is that almost a year after Mayor Boria won the election, there has not been a real progress or important benchmark accomplished at the city of Doral. The Mayor continues to acquire more and more Spanish newspapers while having close friends at the helm. In more than one occasion, we’ve heard that Mayor Boria himself went to the Ethics Commission to ask for an opinion on whether or not he should vote on the Grand Floridian land issue. What he fails to say is that the investigation by the Commission was triggered by complaints, not necessarily because of his “good will.” In addition, the Ethics Commission did find a conflict of interest as stated in a memorandum by the Commission: “…a conflict of interest existed from May 18, 2012 when funds started passing from the mayor, through his children, to US Century Bank to purchase their half-interest in vacant land.”
And the memorandum continues. “The conflict continued to exist: through the summer and into the fall of 2012, when Luigi Boria resigned his Doral City Council seat to run for mayor; in October 2012, when representatives of Grand Floridian at Doral LLC filed the initial request with the Doral planning department (…)” and all through May of this year, when Boria’s children passed their 1.9 million share toward the final closing costs on the $4 million parcel. Yes, there was a conflict of interest. And the Mayor correctly recused himself from voting. What the Mayor doesn’t like to talk about is that the Commission started investigating this case in March of 2013 after receiving several complaints.
During this ten year anniversary of Doral, a lot of energy and time has been wasted in political fights, while us- the taxpayers- wonder what the City is going to do regarding traffic, flooding and a myriad of other problems piling up at city hall.
Stay tuned. This Doral saga doesn’t seem to have an end in sight.