Very Truly Yours, Xavier Suarez

Leading a city in crisis is definitely a time-consuming job, but that hasn't kept the mayor from attending to his correspondence

During the same November 19 press conference in which he introduced Alberto
Ruder as his new city manager, Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez made another announcement -- a warning, really: He was now grading Miami Herald articles for "mistakes and errata and corrections in their reporting."

The prospect of Suarez slowing down long enough to thoughtfully evaluate the daily paper held promise for those who've been alarmed by his manic behavior, but skeptics knew it was too good to be true. Like just about everything else that has popped into his head recently, critiquing the Herald popped right back out within a few days.

A Florida public records request yielded only a handful of missives addressed to Herald reporters and editors. All but one of those letters (a lawsuit threat provoked by columnist Carl Hiaasen) were written in the first two weeks of his administration.

The mayor's correspondence appears below. A copy editor might be hard-pressed to give Suarez a passing grade for grammar and usage. And he fared only slightly better after an analysis of actual content.

November 19, 1997
Ms. Karen Branch
The Miami Herald
One Herald Plaza
Miami, Florida 33132

Re: Grade on today's article

Dear Karen:
I want to thank you for the time that you put forth in your reporting of the City news. However, the new City Manager did point out a few errors in your piece on him this morning. Specifically, Mr. Ruder does not live with his mother; he came into the City through Randy Rosenkrantz, not Mr. Odio; and, his masters degree is from Barry University, not the University of Miami. The rest of the article is reasonably accurate. I give it a B-.

I look forward to reading and analyzing your reporting on Miami affairs. If I, or my staff, can be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to advise.

Sincerely,
Xavier L. Suarez
Mayor of the City of Miami

*Alberto Ruder in fact does not live with his mother, Ofelia Ruder, and has not for several years.

*Although he may quibble about the accuracy of Branch's statement, Suarez is wrong to assert that Ruder "came into the city through Randy Rosenkrantz, not Mr. Odio." Ruder began working for the city in 1981, during the Richard Fosmoen administration.

*Ruder's MBA did come from Barry. It was his undergraduate degree that came from UM.

Grade: B-

November 19, 1997

Ms. Rosa Townsend
The Miami Herald
One Herald Plaza
Miami, Florida 33132

Re: Grade on today's article

Dear Rosa:
The good news is that you scored higher than Karen. The bad news is that you receive a B.

The agency that you referred to is actually the Community Redevelopment Agency. The $34 million that you cited is actually attributed to the FEC property, not bicentennial. The $20 million that you cited for the James L. Knight Center actually refers to parking garage #4. Finally, "Micky" Minagorri's first name is Manuel, not Miguel.

I appreciate the effort that you put forth in reporting City news. I look forward to reading and analyzing your future articles. If I, or my staff, can be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to advise.

Sincerely,
Xavier L. Suarez
Mayor of the City of Miami

*According to the 1996-97 city budget, the "agency" referred to is actually a "department" known as Community Development, not Community Redevelopment. (Townsend called it the Community Relations Agency.)

*While the first name of the person in question is indeed Manuel, the last name should include a tilde, and the nickname should be spelled with an e: Manuel "Mickey" Minagorri.

*"bicentennial" means Bicentennial Park, and it should be capitalized.
Grade: C+

November 25, 1997

Manny Garcia
The Miami Herald
One Herald Plaza
Miami, Florida 33132

Dear Manny:
In today's article you quote me erroneously in describing conversations had between Mr. Jeff Bartel, legal advisor to the Mayor and Police Chief Donald Warshaw. You have me saying that "the most it was one night they might have been discussing this without the manager on board..."

The quote is not only wrong, but ungrammatical. I made absolutely clear to you that no one discussed with Chief Warshaw - on my behalf - the issue of his tenure until a manager was appointed and had made his intentions clear on said matter.

In the future, I suggest all of our conversations regarding City matters be recorded. Please let me know if you will arrange it or expect me to.

Thank you,
Xavier L. Suarez
Mayor City of Miami

*Whatever the accuracy of the quotation as reported by Garcia, the mayor's assertion in his letter is strongly disputed by Chief Warshaw himself. "The election was the thirteenth," Warshaw recalls. "The manager wasn't appointed until the nineteenth. I spoke to Jeff Bartel the fifteenth and the sixteenth. Then, as it related specifically to my job, the discussions started on the seventeenth and went through the eighteenth and the nineteenth. I mean, the conversations were numerous and continuous."

Grade: D

November 25, 1997

Doug Clifton
The Miami Herald
One Herald Plaza
Miami, Florida 33132

Dear Mr. Clifton:
At my request, we met yesterday from about 6:15 p.m. to about 7:00 p.m.
We discussed certain things off-the-record and certain others on-the-record.

The article today by Ms. [Frances] Robles narrates certain items which were agreed to be off-the-record. Unless the rules of journalism have changed drastically since I was last mayor (in 1993) your above-mentioned reporter has acted outside the long-standing professional norms in this area.

Very truly yours,
Xavier L. Suarez
Mayor City of Miami

*"The things quoted were 100 percent on the record by any test," executive editor Clifton retorts. "I wrote him back saying that in a letter, but he never responded."

Grade: D

December 15, 1997

David Lawrence, Publisher
The Miami Herald
One Herald Plaza
Miami, Florida 33132

Dear Mr. Lawrence:
Last week, while in New York, I was told of Carl Hiaasen's column, which contained allegations regarding my mental state.

Please be advised that any allegations suggesting I am in a "deranged" state of mind are erroneous and maliciously defamatory.

Demand is hereby made that you retract any statements which suggest or affirm a pathological mental condition on my part. This demand is made against both the newspaper and Mr. Hiaasen - who incidentally, has refused to meet with me to discuss the offending allegations.

Let me add that this is the fourth major defamation of my character by your newspaper in the last month or so. You have caused great suffering, anguish and loss of prestige to me and my family. Unless a major corrective pattern emerges in the next few weeks, including retractions of each and every defamatory piece, I will sue for compensatory and punitive damages for each and every instance of defamation.

YOU WILL PLEASE GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY.
Xavier L. Suarez

*In his December 4 column, Hiaasen did not describe Suarez as "deranged." Rather he called him "a babbling fruitcake" and added that "the mayor is either certifiably nuts or seriously undermedicated."

*Responds Clifton: "It was just a satirical column. I think it falls securely within the purview of fair comment and criticism."

Grade:

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