Will He Stay or Will He Go?

Manny Diaz succeeds so well in the city that he may get drafted for the county mayor's race

Most important, and rather magically, Diaz has avoided serious scrutiny during his first eighteen months in office. No one pressed him about "overstepping" his powers as an executive mayor by taking a direct role in the hiring of city employees such as Timoney and Linda Haskins, the city's chief financial officer (by law the province of the city manager). No one questioned his bringing in private consultants who'd worked on and donated to his mayoral campaign. No one complained about the huge amount of airtime dedicated to Diaz's appearances on Miami TV, the city's public access channel (while local government proceedings' airtime coverage was cut).

No, as long as Diaz isn't showing up at constituents' homes in the middle of the night, as Suarez used to do; or hurling a tea canister at his wife's head, as Carollo infamously did, Miamians seem to figure they're ahead of the game. So Manny is king of the city.

2. In 2001 Diaz told New Times his motivation for running was intertwined with his father's death in 1999. "I felt a void in my life," he said then. "I looked around the city, to the place where my parents had invested their dreams. It felt different, like someone had over the years taken something from it. People have forgotten what I knew growing up here. Neighborhoods are the heart of a city. There's a woman who couldn't get out of her apartment for three days because of flooding; elderly people who don't have furniture or air conditioning; people won't leave their homes at night for fear of being a crime victim. The streets are torn up, garbage isn't picked up on time."

Otto Boudet-Murias helps real estate developers cut through red tape
Steve Satterwhite
Otto Boudet-Murias helps real estate developers cut through red tape
Joe Arriola, Mayor Diaz's controversial hatchet man, er, city manager
Steve Satterwhite
Joe Arriola, Mayor Diaz's controversial hatchet man, er, city manager

Now, of course, Diaz is in charge and addressing those issues. "People have been very supportive because I stuck to what I said I was going to do," he says today, sounding as if he hadn't yet stopped campaigning. "I've kept my promises."

One of those promises was to re-engineer the city's government structure into a private-sector corporate model. The change turned the city manager into the chief administrator, and eliminated three assistant city manager positions. Those jobs were replaced by the chief information officer, the chief financial officer, and the chief of neighborhood services. The better part of Diaz's first year was spent developing this plan. The idea was specificity and responsibility, instead of vague lollygagging and political patronage.

Gail Sittig, the former executive director of the state oversight board that monitored the city's finances from 1996 until 2001, was hired as a consultant to help develop the new organization. Sittig, Diaz, Winton, and former city Manager Carlos Gimenez, a leftover Carollo man, met every weekend for six months at Winton's downtown Miami office to work on the plan. "It was clear from the beginning that the city's old organizational structure created a communications breakdown between department heads and elected officials," Sittig says. "This lack of communication caused divisions with everyone from the mayor's office down to the clerk's office."

Gimenez, now a consultant for the Miami law firm Steel Hector & Davis, concurred with Sittig's assessment. "We had a lot of personality clashes at the assistant city manager level," Gimenez recalls. "I certainly bought into the reorg."

Diaz, however, was not satisfied with just changing the city's organizational plan. In August of last year he forced Gimenez, who had been credited with bringing stability and integrity back to the city, to resign. Diaz says now that despite Gimenez's input on the reorganization, the former city manager was not the right man to implement the changes. "Carlos is a decent human being," Diaz says, "but I don't think there was a willingness on his part to change the status quo."

Gimenez declined to comment on what led to his departure, but according to some former city employees and political insiders who don't want to be identified, Diaz forced Gimenez out simply because he was Carollo's guy. "Manny really didn't have a reason to let Carlos go," says a source. "They were on the same page 97 percent of the time."

Of course one could argue that Diaz wanted someone who would be on the page 100 percent of the time. Last August Diaz and the city commission made it clear it was time for then-Police Chief Raul Martinez to go after New Times reported, among other things, that the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, an organization that evaluates police department standards, had yanked Miami's certification in 2001 for noncompliance. (In the same year, voters approved a Civilian Investigative Panel to monitor city police, and thirteen officers were hit with federal indictments for planting evidence at the scene of several questionable shootings. Two initially pleaded guilty and four others were found guilty at trial, while three were acquitted and mistrials were declared on the remaining four, making a retrial likely.)

Gimenez, however, supported Martinez and would not fire him. Under the charter, Diaz and the commissioners cannot order a city manager to ax the police chief. Eventually Martinez saw the writing on the wall and resigned last November. With Gimenez leaving in January, Martinez could not count on the support of the new city manager, who of course is going to do the king's dirty work. Ironically, Gimenez, in one of his last official acts, hired the high-profile John Timoney, who rose through the ranks to become second in command of the New York Police Department and went on to reform the Philadelphia Police Department as that city's top cop from 1998 to 2001. Naturally Timoney's hiring came with the king's blessing. "The bottom line is that we believe he's the best cop in the country," Diaz proclaimed in a Miami Herald article following Timoney's hire on December 19. (Timoney was given a $173,000 salary and $10,000 in moving expenses.)

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