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

Timoney's appointment was a true test for Diaz as black activists, the Miami chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and its local president Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, the Fraternal Order of Police, and Commissioner Angel Gonzalez attacked the decision to bring in the Irishman. Black activists and the ACLU raked Diaz and Gimenez for not undertaking a broader national search. They also criticized Timoney's track record in Philly, where he butted heads with the city's Police Advisory Commission, a civilian review board that recommended police reforms and investigated allegations of police abuse. The police union and Gonzalez criticized Diaz for not hiring a new police chief from among the ranks of the department. Timoney quashed the rhetoric days after taking the job on January 2 when he promoted two department vets: Hispanic cop Frank Fernandez to deputy chief, Timoney's second in command, and black officer Gerald Darling to assistant chief in charge of criminal investigations. He also promoted officers George Cadavid, Craig McQueen, and Juanita Walker to major to round out his management team.

"Everyone knew that I wanted Carlos to hire someone from outside the department," Diaz says. "It was no secret. The city can do a lot of great things by bringing in people who will change the attitude of the rank and file. For a long time, we've had people who were not being [pointed] in the right direction."

Former employees also say Diaz and Gimenez had problems just talking. "Carlos is a very direct guy," one employee says. "Manny's not. You tell Carlos to go cut the lawn and he does it. But Manny is the type of guy who will say: "'Boy, that grass sure is high, isn't it?'"

Francois Illas, Diaz's chief of staff; he keeps it cool with the commission
Steve Satterwhite
Francois Illas, Diaz's chief of staff; he keeps it cool with the commission
Diaz says he didn't tell Arriola to hire Linda Haskins as the city's chief financial officer
Steve Satterwhite
Diaz says he didn't tell Arriola to hire Linda Haskins as the city's chief financial officer

In January, with Gimenez's last day coming up, Diaz picked a guy who has no problem seeing eye to eye with him, Joe Arriola. The bombastic millionaire who made his fortune when he sold his family printing business, Avanti/Case-Hoyt, for $42 million two years ago seems to share a strange symbiosis with the mayor.

"I had interviewed a number of candidates," Diaz explains. "But the difference was that Joe had been here for six months already. If I had picked someone new, they would have needed to go through a learning curve. I wasn't going to wait. Joe was the guy who could jump on this train and keep it chugging in the right direction."

Arriola, a man not known for his subtlety and with an inveterate distrust of bureaucracy and unions, is famous for butting heads with Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Merrett Stierheim and Public Health Trust reformer Michael Kosnitzky, publicly calling the former a "horrible leader" and the latter a "cancer." Despite Arriola's penchant for abusive tactics, Diaz enlisted the millionaire as a dollar-a-year consultant to help with the reorganization last summer. Diaz and Arriola had only met once before during a mayoral runoff meet-the-candidates forum in 2001 for Mesa Redonda, a group of highly influential Hispanic businessmen, which, in addition to Arriola, includes Miami Herald publisher Alberto Ibargüen and prominent businessman Carlos Saladrigas. Ironically, at the time Arriola supported Ferré. Some political insiders think Mesa Redonda, which is pro-business, is now setting the agenda for the city with Arriola calling the shots. Diaz says only: "We've formed a common bond; we share the same vision for the city."

3. Miami postman Mariano Cruz, who serves on the civil service board and the homeland defense bond committee as Angel Gonzalez's appointee, is watching the city's cable access channel in the living room of his Allapattah home. Suddenly Manny Diaz appears on the screen. Cruz claps his hands together and lets out a sigh. "I don't know how this guy gets away with it," he vents, "but he does."

Cruz, a long-time supporter of ex-Mayor Xavier Suarez, can't understand why no one has realized that Diaz may be violating the city charter by taking an active role in the city's day-to-day operations. The mayor and the commission are supposed to be the policymakers, he insists, but aren't allowed to micromanage the administration, according to the charter. The mayor can hire and fire the city manager, but he cannot tell the manager who he can hire and fire. The mayor is also not supposed to get involved in contract negotiations or department decisions, something Diaz does on a regular basis. "What Manny Diaz is doing may be good for the city," Cruz says, "but if Arriola is just doing what Diaz tells him to, then that is against the law."

Furthermore, Cruz rambles, when Suarez was doing his 111-day stint between 1997 and 1998, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle didn't hesitate to step in when it appeared he was trying to usurp the city manager's authority and fire then-Police Chief Donald Warshaw. Her office filed a violation-of-city-charter charge against him, which Suarez settled by agreeing to stop his interference. The Miami Herald, which broke the story on the voter fraud, eviscerated Suarez's actions on a daily basis, Cruz continues. "Is Manny Diaz being held to a different standard?"

In reality, Diaz may not be in violation of the charter, but is treading the line rather closely. For example Arriola picked Linda Haskins, the mayor's former financial advisor, to be the city's chief financial officer. Haskins also worked closely with Diaz, Gimenez, Sittig, and Winton on the city's reorganization. Prior to her job with the mayor's office, she was the city's budget director. Diaz said he didn't need to tell Arriola that Haskins was the right person for the job. "Joe and Linda were already working with me," Diaz counters. "So it's not like I had to introduce them."

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