By Ettore Sabatella
Three days before the actual firing of Doral manager, Joe Carollo already knew what was coming his way. During a heated press conference on Friday, April 25, Carollo told reporters inside a packed conference room in his office that he was going to be fired mainly for pointing out those Venezuelans who own real estate in the United States and who have closed connections with Maduro’s administration. And then he dropped a very serious accusation saying that someone close to Vice-Mayor Christi Fraga tried to bribe the Mayor into getting her vote to dismiss Carollo last Fall.
This new feud with Fraga ended as we all expected. The Vice-Mayor very circumspectly read her motion during a special meeting on Monday, April 28. She did not want to discuss in detail the Managers’ behavior since the previous Friday and in a record time (Doral’s standards) and with predictable drama the Council voted 3-2 to fire Carollo with Councilwomen Ana Maria Rodriguez and Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera dissenting. During the heated proceedings the Mayor even threatened Rodriguez-Aguilera to be removed from the dais.
After more than ten years in obscurity, Joe Carollo came back to the public arena in the most unusual of circumstances as the right hand of a relatively new politician in town, Luigi Boria. After a friendship forged in the hallways of the Alpha and Omega Church in Kendall, Boria tapped Carollo as his main advisor to run for Mayor of Doral. When Boria won the runoff elections in November of 2012, many saw that Carollo would be the real Mayor behind the scenes, telling Boria how exactly to conduct city business, or what some referred to as the Ghost Mayor.
Carollo’s role changed unexpectedly when the first manager under Boria, long time government veteran and scandal free Merret Stierheim, abruptly resigned just few weeks into his new job. Nobody really knows why Stierheim left, the reason hidden somewhere inside the hallways of city hall.
So it was not surprising that Boria nominated Joe Carollo to be the next manager, and the rest of the council went along. This may have been the first sign of 15 months of trouble. Why did the rest of the Doral Council decide to give Boria and Carollo a chance? Was it to please the newly minted Mayor, the first Venezuelan Mayor in Doral?? It’s anybody’s guess. The honey moon didn’t last long. Soon after, a litany of relentless accusations over land deals began followed by hypothetical FBI probes; accusations of transactions behind closed doors; personal insults in meetings that lasted until 1, or 2 in the morning; false police reports; Miss USA pageants that weren’t, etc. etc. We all know the drill.
Whether the city residents approve of Carollo or not, the reality is that the city has never been the same since he became Manager and especially from the image point of view. However, Carollo may have been a key factor in keeping the city from going deeper and deeper into trouble considering most of the Council members are relatively new at what they do. Besides, and echoing what Councilwoman Ana María Rodríguez mentioned during the special meeting, the city’s reserves are better than ever with $40 million. There were no major financial upheavals at Doral. But there was a lot of wasted time and time, as the saying goes, is golden.
In the meantime, the Council decided to name and interim manager, the current Public Works Director, José Olivos. Mr. Olivos is a Doral veteran. A quiet, very professional kind of guy who to the peace of mind of the Council and during the time he runs the day-to-day operations at Doral, will not be calling press conferences on his own. The fact that Olivo received a unanimous vote says a lot. It was the first time we see all council members agreeing in something of this importance.
During her read deliberation from the dais, Vice-Mayor Fraga invited the Mayor to consider bringing back Nathan Kogon as the new city manager. Kogon, the former Planning and Zoning Director, left the city two months ago. Boria as Mayor has the ability to nominate the next manager, and according to the city charter, he alone has that authority. Obviously, this time he will hear lots of people’s opinions, as opposed to picking a candidate on his own and on the run. And hopefully, he will not nominate a former politician. After all, this whole Doral saga could have been avoided were the Mayor vetted the previous manager position. Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz reminded him that much saying that’s how Carollo ended up as a manager in the first place.
To the Mayor’s credit, last October he apologized in public for bringing Carollo as manager. But by then it was too late. The quite yet progressive city had been on the papers with negative news more often than not. It will take as many months or years to return or take the city to a better place. The Council is thinking of hiring a consultant for damage control. Hopefully that will help keep the city away from constant controversy but that again, remains to be seen. Knowing his controversial modus operandi, we don’t think Carollo will take a ride into the sunset. He will continue working to discredit Mayor Boria and, let’s face it, the media loves that.
The Mayor and the rest of the Council have their hands full. This time they have to make sure whoever Boria nominates and decide to bring on board will stay for the long run. Three managers within a year say very little about any organization. Doral deserves better. If Doral doesn’t improve in the upcoming months, then they cannot blame Carollo.
For now, Boria will have to review potential candidates for the manager’s position and hopefully he will have enough votes when presenting his nomination. Another meeting like the one he chaired today and chances are he will not be re-elected. As many people have commented, maybe neither Boria nor Carollo deserved to have been in a position of power in Doral in the first place.