So Long, Mila!

Miami is going to miss you. Your vision for the city. Your political savvy. Your cosmopolitan sophistication. Your utter gall.

She began her participation in this article enthusiastically: "It would be a pleasure talking to you about the city and the way that I have been mistreated in my time here." Before long, however, her suspicions were aroused: "If you ever need any information, come to me. Don't go snooping around. Just come to me." Later she shifted to threats: "If you write any of this, I'll sue you." And finally she resorted to inducements: "Listen," she said, "if you need a 'feasibility study,' I'll do it for you for free. You can see how you fit into a worldwide place. If you ask Mila to do a feasibility study for you, I shall do it for you. You can explore the world."

But even influential friends and good press weren't enough to shield Mila from the newly sharpened budget ax of City Manager Cesar Odio. In his proposed budget for 1995-1996, Odio eliminated all funding for the International Trade Board. At the last minute, however, City Commissioner J.L. Plummer, who replaced Victor De Yurre as trade board chairman, asked Odio for a chance to save the board. "I cannot imagine Miami without an International Trade Board," says the veteran commissioner.

Plummer got to work. He slashed the board's budget from more than $800,000 per year to $150,000, and he trimmed the staff from eight people to four. Mila didn't survive the cut. Most of the trade board's business has been with Latin America anyway, and after nine years of Mila's work, Italy still was not one of the city's top fifteen trading partners. For Plummer it was a simple business decision.

Mila said she quit before layoffs were announced. She could see the end coming and decided that a woman of her talents shouldn't have to suffer at the hands of an ungrateful bureaucracy. She could work anywhere she wanted. And certainly she'll be much better compensated in her new position as executive director for international development of the London-based International Trade and Exhibitions Group, or ITE. She'll travel the world coordinating trade shows, and her lifestyle will be accommodated handsomely by a purported salary of $180,000 per year, a two-level flat free of charge, and a chauffeur on demand.

With her two children now living in a Coconut Grove house she expects to purchase in a few months, it's no surprise that she hopes to open a branch office of her London company here.

If she does any looking back at Miami, it is with scorn and derision for the city's provincialism -- Cubans who are interested only in helping each other, and hicks like J.L. Plummer. "It's nothing personal with Plummer," she said. "It's logic. He's a racist, a bigot, and a Ku Klux Klan man. He has no concept of international relations and he is nothing but a South Florida cowboy."

Plummer could only shake his head. "To be honest with you, I don't know why she is saying these things about me," he shrugs. "I have met the woman only once. I have never even worked with her. Everywhere I show up, she seems to be leaving."

Indeed Mila left, taking with her the answers to a range of intriguing questions -- from the mysterious Social Security numbers to the acquisition of the official city business plaque to the fact that UCLA has no record of her or her doctoral degree under any of her various names or Social Security numbers.

And though she's now several thousand miles away, her pal Victor De Yurre says he's figured out a way for her to work on "personal projects" for the city A from her office in London. (He won't elaborate and Mila would say only that she won't be paid.) "When you end your story," De Yurre volunteers, "I think it should end in an upbeat fashion because I think that Mila has contributed in a positive way to this community. From my perspective, she has been a tremendous asset."

And as a final bow before leaving the Miami stage, she somehow ensured that the city will honor her contract until it expires September 30. Which means she will earn 4500 taxpayer dollars without bothering to actually work for them. "Don't print that before I leave," she whispered, "or they won't pay me."

A photograph accompanying the August 31 cover story "So Long, Mila!" did not include the name of the photographer. The photo showed Mila Cervone D'Urso with Miami City Commissioner Victor De Yurre and his wife in Italy. It was shot by Miami photographer John Burton and was provided to New Times by D'Urso, who did not identify Burton as its creator.

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