Former Miami City Manager Joe Arriola Has a Beef With New Times Takedown of Manny Diaz's Book

It appears Miami civic leader Joe Arriola wasn't too keen on how he's portrayed in my recent story about his former boss Manny Diaz's book, Miami Transformed: Rebuilding America One Neighborhood, One City At A Time.

"Your article is also full of lies," he wrote me in an recent email. Miami's city manager from 2003 to 2006 claims I published inaccurate information regarding the scandals that engulfed him and Diaz. Let's address his beefs:

See also:
- Ex-Mayor Manny Diaz's New Book Is Full of Lies

Arriola says he had nothing to do with the $53,000 raise Diaz got in December 2005 and that he and then-Commissioner Johnny Winton partnered with the then-mayor to buy a Coconut Grove property for $3.1 million almost two years later.

"The manager has no power regarding the mayor's salary and no vote," Arriola says. "It was voted unanimously by the commissioners."

He's right. Winton is the one who introduced the raise as a last minute pocket item during a city commission meeting.

Still, Arriola didn't protest giving his boss a raise. According to a Miami Herald article published the day after Diaz got the salary increase, Arriola could have cared less that taxpayers did not have the opportunity to speak against the raise. "That's their problem," he said at the time.

And the Miami-Dade ethics commission rebuked both Diaz and Winton for doing business with Arriola when they all worked together and depended on each other to get things approved in the city. That's known as a conflict of interest.

Arriola also claims he left the city in August 2006 because he had been offered "a great opportunity to work and live in Spain for a year."

He announced his resignation two months earlier when Diaz made it clear he was replacing him with Pete Hernandez, at the time a veteran assistant county manager for Miami-Dade. Arriola officially left the city in mid-July after the Miami City Commission confirmed Hernandez's appointment.

Regarding the fire fee fiasco, Arriola says he had minimal involvement in pushing the deal through despite the fact he and Diaz agreed to the $7 million settlement during a breakfast meeting with the plaintiffs' attorney Hank Adorno in 2004.

"My only involvement was a 15 minute conversation with Mr. Adorno," Arriola says, adding it was the city attorney's office that pitched the settlement to the city commission.

"Mr Adorno (tried) to put the blame on me but the judge reversed it and took his license away and his law firm had to close," Arriola says. (Adorno was disbarred for three years in 2011 for his role in the fire fee scandal and his practice did shut down).

Arriola also blamed then-City Attorney Jose Fernandez. "The city attorney made a mess of this," Arriola affirms. "But he did not work for me nor did I have authority to make a deal. To this day, I wonder how all the commissioners and attorneys that work on this were able to walk away without a scratch."

Finally, Arriola insists his fallout with Diaz had nothing to do with their shady real estate deal or the fire fee boondoggle. It was all about politics.

"My breakup with Manny occurred when he decided to back Linda Haskins for commissioner and I wanted Marc Sarnoff," Arriola says. "He never forgave me for giving Marc financial support for his campaign."

Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.