A Friend in Need

Steve Shiver receives a letter of support from an old pal

Nobody knows better than Homestead Mayor Roscoe Warren how badly Steve Shiver has bungled his first two months as county manager. During a March 8 county commission meeting, Shiver sought to undermine the Homestead City Council by informing commissioners they should disregard a city resolution regarding Homestead Air Force Base.The council resolution urged the county to accept the 717 acres of federal land on the base and develop it as something other than a commercial airport. Shiver told commissioners to ignore that resolution, arguing the city council didn't know what it was doing because county Commissioner Katy Sorenson hadn't properly briefed council members on all options for the base.

When Shiver's chicanery first surfaced, Warren was so upset he criticized the manager in a column I wrote ("Strike Three," March 22). Last week Warren recalled a conversation he had with Shiver following publication of that column. Shiver phoned Warren hoping he'd retract his statements. "You made it seem like I was a liar," Shiver whined, according to Warren.

"Well, Steve," Warren said he replied, "somebody has to tell the truth."

In another conversation between Warren and the manager, Warren said he told Shiver, who preceded him as mayor, that he no longer had the right to speak on Homestead's behalf, and he certainly had no right to speak for the mayor. "I don't like anybody speaking on my behalf," Warren reiterated. "When he used my name, I didn't like that at all, and I told him so. He knows that now."

In recent days, however, Warren's anger has subsided as he has witnessed one media outlet after another attack Shiver for being untrustworthy and manipulative. Shiver's credibility is in such disarray that an effort to reform county procurement procedures failed because the measure would have placed greater power in the hands of the manager. The plan's rejection was a clear vote of no confidence in Shiver.

Then on Monday, April 16, Warren read a story in the Miami Heraldregarding the mysterious disappearance of New Times papers from the lobby of county hall and a suspicious malfunction during the rebroadcast of a televised county commission meeting. The glitch excised that portion of the meeting in which commissioners criticized Shiver. The article raised questions about whether Shiver may have had a hand in those two events. Warren said he was aghast at the story's implications: "Do they think my friend Steve Shiver would really stoop to that level?"

A day or two before the Herald article, Warren related that he'd received a phone call from Bill Losner, a Homestead banker and one of the town's most influential men. "He shared with me that Steve was in trouble," Warren recounted, "and he wanted to know what we could do about it to help Steve. He said he had just had a conversation with Steve and that Steve was really stressed out and worried."

Despite their differences, Warren and Shiver have been lifelong friends. Warren, who is 48 years old, said he has known Shiver's family since he was a child. And so as the controversy surrounding the manager escalated, Warren made a decision to come to his friend's defense.

On April 18 the mayor penned a letter addressed to all the county commissioners. "Over the past few weeks I have observed the unwarranted and often malicious attacks on the character and integrity of a man I respect as both a true professional and friend," he wrote.

He went on to describe one of the conversations he'd had with Shiver regarding Homestead Air Force Base shortly after the city council passed its resolution urging the county to accept the base for economic development. "It was during this conversation that I was asked: If I understood more clearly that a dual-tract option existed that would allow us to pursue the economic development conveyance and at the same time attempt to preserve our right to a commercial airport through litigation, would I have reconsidered my vote? My answer was yes."

That passage in the letter, the mayor clarified, is meaningless because there is no such thing as a "dual tract." It's a myth. As long as the county pursues its lawsuit against the federal government, Warren noted, there will be no economic development at the base. "The litigation is going to hold up any development at the base for years to come," he said. "My people do not want an airport. I have heard that loud and clear."

Warren continues to urge the county to drop the pretense of a dual tract and accept the land. "The city council is solidly against an airport," he added. "We support a mixed-use development for the base, and there is no way in hell I will go against that."

Although Warren won't say it directly, that passage in his letter was the figurative lifeline tossed to a drowning man. It gave Shiver something to cling to, an opportunity to claim he hadn't actually lied to the county commission. But in truth it scarcely offered the manager any vindication.

Shiver told commissioners the Homestead City Council was never presented with information on the alternatives for the base. That was a lie. Katy Sorenson did provide that information. Warren's letter also doesn't relieve Shiver of accusations that he was behaving more like a political hack than a professional administrator. Nor does it address subsequent revelations that Shiver has filled his staff with friends and cronies who have no experience in government administration.

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