On March 12, 2014 Mayor Boria opens the floor with a motion to terminate John Herin, the City Attorney. “I have lost confidence in our attorney, this is difficult for me. It is not personal or political, it is a business decision,” said Mayor Boria. Councilwoman Ruiz seconds the motion, and the floor is opened for discussion. And, minutes into the day-long meeting fireworks start.
Both Councilwoman Ana Maria Rodriguez and Councilwoman Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera said that this was not an item that was on the agenda and claimed that the Mayor was acting “with a lack of transparency.” The Mayor, however, stated that this topic had been discussed many times on previous occasions and specifically at the last meeting he had strongly voiced his concerns about Mr. Herin and his advise during the solicitation process. The Mayor was firm with his concerns and decision and choose the law firm of Weiss, Serota, Helfman, Pastoriza, Cole and Boniske, as the new law firm for the City.
“This is ridiculous” said Council Rodriguez Aguilera. Councilwoman Ruiz commented that all council members needed to be respectful and if they disagreed with anything it should be reflected through their vote not by making slanderous remarks.
“All Charter Officials need to be responsive to all of Council”, said Vice Mayor Fraga.
Fraga stated that this was indeed a difficult decision but that she supported the Mayor. “The Mayor needs to have a City Attorney that is responsive and works with him and all of the council as a whole. I am certain that the Mayor has done his diligence in making certain that all the proper steps have been taken” she said.
“Under the Charter you (the Mayor) have a right to nominate.” Councilwoman Ruiz stated. She brought to attention the experience of the law firm Weiss Serota and specifically a full time attorney who deals specifically with ethics issues and given recent incidents made that by staff (City Manager) that the council had been in violation of ethics violation with the Code of Silence, she felt that it would be appropriate to have an attorney who has the expertise in these issues. Councilwoman Ruiz stated: “I am very comfortable with this nomination.”
Again, Councilwoman Rodriguez Aguilera felt that “we” the council was “violating our own laws”. She suggested for the item to be deferred to the next meeting again claiming lack of transparency.
“I want to remind all of you that we have been discussing this for over two months now. It is a tough decision but as Mayor I must make this decision. We will have a special council meeting to review the contract”, stated the Mayor firmly.
Mr. Herin said: “If I’m not meeting your expectations. I purposely stayed away from any aspect of the solicitation process because of conflict of interest”. He then acknowledged his termination of services with the City of Doral.
The final vote was 3-2, Rodriguez Aguilera and Rodriguez were the nays.
Nathan Kogan, Planning and Zoning Director is Replaced
Nathan Kogan who had been part of the City of Doral since its inception and was a crucial staff member was replaced by Julian Perez. Mr. Perez has many years of extensive experience managing projects with Miami Dade County,” stated the Manager. Mr. Carollo stated he was confident that Mr. Perez is a great addition to the city.
Nathan has not been available for comments or to explain is abrupt absence as Director of Planning and Zoning.
Other City Business
Pilot Program for Bikes – Mayor Boria brought forth an initiative for the City staff to look for options for bike paths and racks to assist the residents in commuting through the city. Councilwoman Ruiz pointed out that there were many students that commuted in bikes and that having bike racks would assist them greatly. Mayor Boria also pointed out that Miami Beach has a bike program that is very effective and he would like the City of Doral to have a similar program.
Mayhem with the Advisory Boards – There seems to be numerous issues with the procedures and processes of the City’s Advisory Boards. Presentations were made by the Cultural Advisory Board and the International Advisory Boards that may classify as “lobbyist” according to the City Clerk and the City Attorney.
For the record, a lobbyist according to the City Attorney, “if someone is being paid to be here to influence your vote then he is a lobbyist. If the person is receiving compensation in any form then it is a lobbyist. If a member of a non-profit asking for sponsorship without any compensation then that is not a lobbyist.”
Councilwoman Ruiz reminded the boards that there is a liaison assigned by management to each of the advisory boards to help and assist with presentations and what they exactly is doing.
The Council needs to take control and educate the members of these advisory boards as to the process, procedure, and what their role is in the city.
Friction between the Mayor and the City Manager
Friction started when the Mayor asks the Manager that he needs to have access and contact with the City Clerk to 7:00 pm. The Mayor voiced his concerns that sometimes he needs to access the Clerk’s office and that they close at 4:30 pm, and that at times he works late and needs to discuss issues explained the Mayor. The Mayor pointed out that in prior administration they were allowed access to various department with the exception of IT. The Mayor put the request to rest in the attempt to “keep the peace”; however, the tension between the two was evident during this simple exchange.
The tension builds late in the meeting when the City Manager presents his decision to create a position to the Doral Police Department of Assistant Chief Police. Councilwoman Ruiz pointed out that the Charter clearly states that positions cannot be created without it being brought up to the council for approval. The Mayor asked if this had been brought forth through the Police Advisory Board. A member of the Police Advisory Board was present and he stated that he had never seen this proposal.
The Mayor stated that he had been in contact and spoken to the City Attorney regarding the authority of the City Manager to move monies and funds within a division or a department. The City Attorney clarified that the City Manager does have the authority to move monies and funds within the division or department. The Mayor very calmly explained that he wants to make certain that things are done appropriately.
The issue was resolved, however, the tension was clear between the Mayor and the City Manager.