Biscayne Park finance director Michael Arciola under fire for old sexual complaints

Twenty years ago, Michael Arciola was at the center of a firestorm in Lauderhill. The city's mayor accused the then-41-year-old finance director of sexually harassing a clerk, a problem for which he'd already been reprimanded twice.

That fight is ancient history, but today it's kicking up a fresh storm in the tony village of Biscayne Park, which in May hired Arciola as its finance director for about $40,000 a year.

Then, a few weeks ago, anonymous letters with old news clips about Arciola's past began arriving at city hall.

While working in Pompano Beach from 1975 to '79, he was criticized for his management style, and then in Pembroke Pines in 1980, a panel found he'd made "insensitive remarks" to a 19-year-old female worker, the Sun-Sentinel reported. In 1986 in Lauderhill, he faced another complaint from six female employees that resulted in a reprimand, the paper wrote.

Arciola today declines to discuss those cases except to say he was never "found guilty."

Lauderhill Mayor Ilene Lieberman tried to fire Arciola, but the city council rebuffed her. In 1989, Arciola resigned and filed an ethics complaint and a lawsuit.

Both were dismissed in 1991, and Arciola has kept his nose clean since.

He worked on and off in city governments, in South Bay, Belle Glade, and — most recently — Lauderdale Lakes until 2007. No civil or criminal cases against him are on record.

Biscayne Park Commissioner Steve Bernard is asking why Village Manager Ana Garcia never addressed the old incidents before hiring Arciola. Garcia says she knew nothing about them. "We contacted his old employers and references, and no one had a bad word to say," she says.

Garcia says she then found old stories on the Internet but wasn't concerned: "It was 20 years ago, and there were no criminal charges."

But Bernard wishes the commission had at least been notified about the past issues. "No mention was ever made of these cases," he says.

Arciola says there's no need to mention them. He says he has a letter from the clerk herself rescinding the complaint (though he claims the letter is "in storage"). And he says his conscience is clear.

"You're talking to an Apostolic Pentecostal man here," he says. "We don't do stuff like this."

 
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