By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
By Frank Owen
By Allie Conti
By now, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado's grand April news conference to announce his personal anticorruption unit's first probe has been enshrined in the Political Catastrophe Hall of Fame, somewhere in the Mission Accomplished Banner Memorial Wing.
The lingering question is, how much will Regalado's botched job ultimately cost taxpayers?
As New Times reported earlier this month, former General Services Administration chief Alex J. Martinez is considering a suit over his dropped charges — and looks to have a strong case that his firing was political payback.
Now, another departmental director fired during the probe, which cops have apparently dubbed "Operation Fiasco," has filed a whistleblower complaint against the city.
Ola Aluko, formerly the director of the city's Capital Improvements Program, alleges Regalado fired him because he exposed several employees who were illegally inflating city contracts. What's more, Aluko says Regalado slimed his reputation by announcing his firing during the same news conference trumpeting the corruption arrests.
"They did that timing on purpose," Aluko says. "Now I'm looking for work, and everyone associates my name with this corruption scandal."
Pat Santangelo, Regalado's spokesman, declined to comment on Aluko's complaint.
This past January, Aluko — who was hired in April 2007 to oversee hundreds of millions of dollars in city construction projects — started an investigation against a CIP manager named Joe Goudie after Aluko noticed unauthorized extra work at a project in Coral Gate. Aluko soon received similar complaints from Commissioner Frank Carollo about another project.
By March, Aluko says, he had evidence that another project had been inflated from $250,000 to $750,000 without his approval.
On March 19, he took his evidence to Regalado and the new city manager, Carlos Migoya, and said he wanted to fire Goudie and several other CIP managers. Instead, Regalado asked Aluko to wait for a police investigation.
Then, on April 8, Migoya and Regalado called a meeting. To his shock, the pair demanded Aluko's resignation. The fraud — which Aluko himself had uncovered — constituted a "lack of control" over the CIP, the mayor told him. He gave Aluko until 4 p.m. to decide — coincidentally, the exact time Regalado's "corruption probe" news conference was scheduled at police headquarters.
Aluko refused and was fired from his $144,000-per-year position with no severance. (Goudie, of course, kept his job.)
In a whistleblower suit filed earlier this month with the Civil Service Board, Aluko demands that his job be reinstated and his lost wages be compensated.
"If the mayor wants to clean house and change top officials, he's got the right to do that," says Andres Rivero, Aluko's attorney. "But what they can't do is fire a guy who blows the whistle and embarrasses them."