Cava's decision to give a plum executive position to outgoing Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales prompted sharp criticism from the local branch of the NAACP and from Miami filmmaker Billy Corben, who spent weeks prior to the November 3 election hyping up the former county commissioner as an agent of reform for the status quo at County Hall.
Cava defeated a fellow county commissioner, Esteban "Steve" Bovo, in the runoff earlier this month by pushing a progressive agenda that included tackling a number of social-justice issues. Her plan for police-accountability reform includes a ban on chokeholds and a fully independent police-review panel.
But the local branch of the NAACP quickly noted that Morales, whom Cava hired to serve as Miami-Dade's chief operations officer, oversaw a local police department and a city administration that has been at the center of numerous racially charged controversies. On Monday, the branch's Twitter account asserted that the Miami Beach Police Department's "culture of excessive force and police brutality that was fostered under the leadership of Jimmy Morales is not what we want to permeate at ANY of #OurCounty departments."
In a press release yesterday afternoon, Miami-Dade NAACP president-elect Daniella Pierre expanded on the group's criticisms of Morales, noting that the organization had called for his resignation back in March following viral videos of cops aggressively targeting predominantly Black spring breakers on Ocean Drive.
Thank you for sharing this information with us.— Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP (@miami_naacp) November 24, 2020
We learned about this new appointment from @doug_hanks.
The culture of excessive force & police brutality that was fostered under the leadership of Jimmy Morales is not what we want to permeate in ANY of #OurCounty departments.
"Although our call for Morales' resignation did not happen at that time, COVID-19 did," Pierre's statement said. "Yet, our position remains the same: for individuals to have equal rights without discrimination based on race. Our newly elected mayor Daniella Levine Cava has named Morales as the county's Chief Operations Officer. This appointment is very concerning to us and members of the community.... Morales should not be celebrated, tolerated, or promoted to lead any office in Miami-Dade County. "
Cava did not respond to several requests for comment via her spokeswoman. In her announcement about hiring Morales, she praised his credentials and said he was her choice to oversee many important county departments including water and sewer; Transportation and Public Works; the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources; Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces; solid waste management; elections; aviation; and the seaport.
"Jimmy Morales brings forward-thinking leadership and nearly 25 years of experience in public service and city operations – in both elected and appointed roles at the county, and diverse cities from Doral to Miami Beach – to help us tackle these challenges and build a more resilient Miami-Dade for the 21st century," Cava said in the announcement.
Morales, who announced he was resigning last month before he was offered the new gig, did not respond to an email request for comment sent to his chief of staff.
Yesterday, Corben fired off 21 tweets linking to articles about corruption, malfeasance, and general incompetence in Miami Beach under Morales' tenure as city manager. The filmmaker pointed out that Morales helped institute rules that discouraged "certain demographics" from coming to Miami Beach; that he allowed stormwater pumps to dump runoff into Biscayne Bay; and that his administration fought New Times from obtaining an audit on the city's towing companies even after the newspaper won a lawsuit to release the public records.
"Tough to imagine a worse unforced error in @MayorDaniella's first week than appointing Jimmy Morales Chief Operations Officer," Corben tweeted. "If her idea of 'a new day' is to empower the same villains who made us the most corrupt county in America, it's going to be a long 4 years. #BecauseMiami."
Everything @MayorDaniella says about Jimmy Morales here is a lie. How she can appoint him to such an important position in our county and be so staggeringly ignorant about his record is alarming. It's like she cancelled her own administration before it even started. #BecauseMiami pic.twitter.com/IhlPM6PGDQ— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) November 24, 2020