Strike Three

Don't be surprised if you see Steve Shiver's pants on fire -- that's what happens to people like him

Vice Mayor Sincore concurred that Sorenson presented hers and Seijas's resolutions during the council meeting. He said it wasn't entirely clear to him, however, whether the county would sue under the Seijas resolution or if they would only consider suing. When Shiver called him in the midst of the March 8 county commission meeting, Shiver told him the county was definitely going to sue the federal government under Seijas's resolution. "I was asked [by Shiver] if that would change my vote," Sincore recounted. "I said, “It might. I don't know.'"

"Would you tell this man that?" Shiver said, according to Sincore.

The next thing Sincore knew Shiver had passed the phone to someone else. "I don't know his name," Sincore said. "I told him the same thing. I don't know why Steve called me."

Did the new county manager, Steve Shiver, deliberately try to mislead the county commission?
Did the new county manager, Steve Shiver, deliberately try to mislead the county commission?


Read related New Times Steve Shiver stories

Sincore told me he is fed up with the entire debate over the base. "I just want to see this thing laid to rest," he sighed. "I don't care what we put out there. I want jobs."

The man to whom Shiver handed the phone was Terry Murphy, Seijas's chief of staff. Murphy confirmed that during the commission meeting Shiver unexpectedly called him over to his desk and handed him the telephone. Would Murphy corroborate Shiver's statements to the commission regarding Sincore? "No comment," he said, and declined to answer follow-up questions. Other sources on the dais said Murphy was upset that Shiver tried to use him to support a contrived version of events.

The conclusions to be drawn from this episode are ominous. First and foremost, the new county manager misled the county commission with representations that were demonstrably false. Does that make him a liar? It's difficult to imagine that his misstatements were mere misunderstandings or "discrepancies." But if they were misunderstandings, what does that say about Shiver's intelligence? Which is scarier: a county manager who connives to lie to his bosses in order to advance his own agenda, or a county manager unable to draw accurate conclusions from straightforward conversations?

In either event Shiver has been damaged by this affair. His word is now suspect.

Setting aside for a moment the apparent lies, the very fact that Shiver, from the dais, was busy making phone calls to Mayor Warren and Vice Mayor Sincore is troubling as well. Shiver should be spending his time learning the business of the county. Instead it appears he was trying to weasel statements out of Warren and Sincore he could use to undermine the vote taken by the Homestead City Council. In Miami-Dade County we expect that sort of sleaze from our politicians, not from the manager, who is supposed to be a professional administrator remaining above the political fray. I realize it's a difficult ideal to maintain, but I would have hoped Shiver would have gone longer than three weeks on the job before casually and cynically tossing it aside.

Another disturbing aspect of Shiver's performance was his effort to upstage and personally embarrass Katy Sorenson by implying she had somehow deceived the Homestead City Council into voting for her resolution. He may look like a teenage choir boy, but what he attempted to do to Sorenson was deliberate and mean-spirited. Furthermore, by placing Terry Murphy in the middle of the dispute, Shiver showed he is willing to sacrifice anyone around him to get what he wants. Managers who conduct themselves this way will never earn the necessary loyalty of their staffs.

Finally there is the issue of Shiver telling Mayor Warren that Commissioner Seijas needed to speak to him and that he should call her. If Shiver doesn't want to be seen as a puppet of powerful people he shouldn't adopt the role of errand boy. Since his veracity is now questionable, it's impossible to know if Seijas asked him to pass a message to Warren or if Shiver made that up as well.

Either way, it was stupid.

Since becoming manager, Shiver has tried to package himself as a new brand of bureaucrat: young, energetic, and boundlessly optimistic. But all he really seems to be doing is mixing a golly-gee-whiz approach to government with motivational claptrap and hackneyed business psychobabble -- equal parts Eddie Haskell, Tony Robbins, and Lee Iacocca.

In a memo to county employees dated February 21 and titled "Management Philosophy," Shiver wrote that he intends "to serve as a change agent" and "develop a team of collectively driven public servants who are willing to push the envelope." He will "encourage groupthink approaches to addressing complex issues that require multiple perspectives to formulate creative solutions."

Shiver thanked Penelas and the county commission for selecting him. Then, referring to his own priorities, he added, "Above all, I am focused and driven to succeed. Whatever I do it is with 100 percent of my effort into the task at hand.... I look forward to your innovative thinking, creative advise [sic] and most of all your complete dedication to absolute excellence in all we do," Shiver concluded with a flourish. "As we come forward with new innovative ideas, remember this “one cannot discover new oceans unless they [sic] have the courage to lose sight of the shore.'"

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