North Bay Village Top Administrators Abruptly Resign Following Extortion, Blackmail Claims

North Bay Village has a hard-earned reputation for political shenanigans. The tiny city, comprising three manmade islands between Miami and Miami Beach, spent its early years as a meeting place for mobsters and other shady characters. Since then, it's been rocked by one sordid saga after another.

Today, North Bay Village continues its tradition of insane municipal drama: Village Manager Frank Rollason abruptly resigned this week, writing he didn't have the confidence of the full commission and village attorney. Walking off the job with him were Deputy Village Manager Jenice Rosado, who cited a "toxic work environment," and executive assistant Evelyn Herbello.

"Everything is so contentious in this city," observes Kevin Vericker, who writes about the dysfunction on his blog, the unusually named North Bay Village Reality Based Community. "It's the world's worst-run condo association." 

The sudden departures — which came at 6 p.m. Tuesday, effective immediately — left the city without a manager for roughly 24 hours. During an emergency meeting Wednesday evening, commissioners appointed Finance Director Bert Wrains interim village manager. But even that move was not without controversy: Two of the commissioners didn't show up, and one public speaker accused the meeting of violating the Florida Sunshine Law.

"There's no emergency," said Fane Lozman, a government agitator well known to past and present North Bay Village leaders, who has taken his activism to the U.S. Supreme Court. "The city roof didn't blow off. There wasn't a hurricane; there wasn't a fire. I'm going to tell everybody in this audience that this was noticed this morning — this meeting was illegally held." 

This week's excitement is just the latest installment in North Bay Village bizarreness. Last May, Commissioner Douglas Hornsby made the shocking announcement that he'd been arrested on a drug charge 30 years ago. He said he was airing the news after being targeted by a would-be blackmailer. The police chief announced that investigations into the extortion attempt had been launched by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and a federal agency.

Meanwhile, six residents sued Hornsby, Rollason, and Village Attorney Robert Switkes, arguing Hornsby is ineligible to serve in public office after failing to disclose his conviction on voter registration forms. 

Vericker chronicled the ordeal on his blog, including rumors that Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps and Commissioner Jose Alvarez were under investigation for blackmail letters sent to Hornsby. The coverage earned Vericker a cease-and-desist letter from a lawyer hired by Leon-Kreps, which the blogger ignored.

"I feel like we're performing a public service," he told New Times at the time. "But I guess when things get prickly, the mayor calls the attorneys in."

Then, in November, Leon-Kreps and two other commissioners suddenly voted to fire Switkes. No reason was given. But Switkes offered one from the dais: He was being retaliated against for reporting the attempted extortion against Hornsby. He then announced that Leon-Kreps and a member of Alvarez's family were "subjects of interest" in the investigation into the Hornsby matter.

In posts such as one titled "A Short History of What the Hell Is Going On," Vericker correctly predicted that Rollason, who's been with the city for about four years, wouldn't be around much longer. But Vericker thought the departure would come in the form of a mayoral-led firing that would aim to get rid of the investigations.

Rollason and Leon-Kreps had clashed at meetings for at least a year, Vericker says. In 2016, the mayor even filed an ethics complaint against the village manager. She accused him of giving preferential treatment to other candidates in the placement of political signs. The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics investigated the claim and ruled it meritless.

In a statement to residents Wednesday, Leon-Kreps wrote that the village intends to maintain "a united team." The "toxic workplace" comment is being taken seriously and has been referred to the city attorney, she added.

For his part, Rollason — a former City of Miami manager and fire chief — isn't talking. Reached on his cell phone Wednesday, he was asked if he wanted to comment on the situation. His answer was swift: "Nope."

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