Smooth Operator

Personal financial embarrassments and allegations of sexual impropriety have done nothing to spoil Derrick Miller's political fortunes in Opa-locka

Miller's colleagues on the city commission told Doughlin that whatever the merits of her complaint, they were the wrong people to address because, as an entity, the commission was legally powerless to intervene in the matter. Doughlin still works for the city, now in the personnel department. Last week she said she is contemplating litigation but declined to comment further.

Yolanda Mercado: "My father's family lives up in Tampa. After he died we went to do some rosary up there and left Jenny behind at her friend's. I found out that Derrick had went looking for my daughter to see if she would drop the charges or whatever."

Jenny: "He came over to my friend's house and said, “Well, your mom got me on the news and everything. She got me in the newspaper. He said, can you sign a ... I forget what it's called, a ... an affidavit. At that time I was mad at my mom so I said, “Yeah, I'll do it.' He was telling me what to say. He told me to say the only reason he was giving me the money was to get my hair done and stuff like that, and for my grandfather's flowers. But it wasn't for that. He told me to tell his lawyer that I never gave him a kiss, that we never kissed."

Yolanda Mercado and daughter Jenny have yet to hear from the police
Steve Satterwhite
Yolanda Mercado and daughter Jenny have yet to hear from the police

Jenny, in an affidavit provided to the Miami Herald by Derrick Miller: "I have never had sexual relations with Derrick Miller [and he] has never touched me or asked me to do anything.... My mother asked me if I was having sex with Derrick Miller. I told her no. She kept asking, and I finally told her I kissed him. That was not true, and I only told her that to make her mad. My mother said to me, “You should be more intelligent and sue Derrick Miller for $10,000.'"

On December 13, 2000, in the wake of the reports on television and in the Herald, Miller showed up at the Opa-locka City Commission chambers planning, he said at the time, to resign his position. That didn't happen. Instead Miller was one of a majority of three commissioners who voted to suspend Tony Robinson as city manager. None of the three who voted to remove Robinson publicly explained his or her decision. The manager was relieved of his duties. Within the month the commission charged Robinson with eleven counts of wrongdoing, including insubordination and abuse of power. "It was politics more than anything else," says Mayor Alvin Miller. "Anytime you suspend a city manager before even addressing why you are suspending him -- bottom line, that's politics."

Despite the suspension Mayor Miller stood behind his manager. "I was fighting to have Mr. Robinson remain city manager for two reasons. Number one: He was, in my opinion, a disciplinarian who likes to tackle corruption. Number two: I felt we needed a type of stability. With all the city managers Opa-locka has had in the past five years, if you're on the outside, why would you want to come in and invest in our city?"

On January 5, 2001, the commission held a special hearing on Robinson's professional fate. More than 70 pro-Robinson supporters packed the Persian-themed city hall chambers. Included among the supporters was state Sen. Daryl Jones. "I hold him in the highest regard. He has tremendous integrity, and he seeks always to do his best at whatever he does," Jones told the commission.

Robinson was fired anyway.

Yolanda Mercado: "That's when the cops came to my house. They told me [Jenny] signed the form, so there was nothing they could do. I said, “First of all she's a minor; she's not supposed to be signing anything without me being there.'

"I told the police officer that I know I can't do nothing, you know? But boy, if I had real money and a real good lawyer, I would go about doing something. Believe me I would go in there. Somebody big has to go into that city hall and find out what's really going on. 'Cause he's going to keep on doing it. He knows he's going to get away with it, and that's it. He's going to get away with all this."

Derrick Miller declined to be interviewed for this story. He did not return repeated messages left for him at city hall. Last month his wife, Barbara, answered the door at his current address. "He's not here," she said, even though his yellow city car sat out front. Stuck to the windshield were parking decals from Florida Memorial College, the school where Miller's mentor, Robert Ingram, still works. (Ingram did not return phone calls concerning his protégé.)

The mother of Jenny Caba's friend Carmen refused to let her daughter be interviewed for this story. "If you write anything bad about Derrick Miller, then me, Carmen, my son, my husband, and all of my friends will go against you," said the mother, who asked that her name not be used. "If Jenny and her momma want to be bitches and want to get money from a person who is a great person, then they -- they should, they should simply be proud and glad that Jenny has touched the great Derrick Miller's hand.

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