Miami Police to hold vote of no confidence in city manager
BY DAVID SMILEY
In an unusual move, Miami’s police union will hold a vote next month to potentially declare “no confidence” in the city’s embattled top administrator, according to the Fraternal Order of Police.
Happy New Year, Daniel Alfonso. If 2016 was rough, 2017 isn’t looking any better.
“The Miami Fraternal Order of Police membership last night directed me to hold a vote … at all police precincts in the beginning of January. The actual date will be set in the next few days,” Lt. Javier Ortiz told the Miami Herald on Thursday.
The top executive overseeing Miami’s billion-dollar budget, Alfonso has been under pressure from organized labor and Miami’s five commissioners. A city manager’s grip is always somewhat tenuous at Miami’s volatile city hall, but Alfonso has taken considerable fire this year while grappling with massive development projects, new union contracts and contested employee terminations.
Just this month, the manager kept his job by the thinnest of margins when three of the city’s five commissioners voted to fire him (four votes were needed under Miami law). Lame-duck Mayor Tomas Regalado is staunchly in his corner. But Wifredo “Willy” Gort and Keon Hardemon are Alfonso’s only remaining supporters on the commission, and Hardemon is just eight months removed from himself trying to fire Alfonso amid tensions with Miami’s Haitian-American community.
Now, Ortiz, with whom Alfonso has regularly clashed, is leaning on the manager. Over the past two weeks, the controversial union president has hammered the manager over an investigation into the disappearance of 11 handguns and penned a blistering letter accusing the manager of disproportionately punishing African-American employees.
Some view the latter as a way to pressure Hardemon, Miami’s lone black commissioner and the son of a Miami cop, to change his vote.
“Lt. Ortiz has the right to whatever opinion he has. And the union leadership can take whatever action they deem necessary. It’s their right to do so,” Alfonso said. “My disappointment in all of this is that the city has a lot of important business to deal with.”
Miami’s police union has taken votes of no-confidence in the past, most recently in 2007 when they proclaimed their lack of faith in then-chief John Timoney and his deputy, Frank Fernandez. But Regalado, who has been in elected city office since the mid-90s, said he can’t remember the union ever coming out against the city manager.
“They’ve done that to other chiefs — Timoney in the past — but not to a manager, which in a way is extraordinary,” Regalado said. “I am committed to go on a media blitz to denounce the creation of chaos.”
By fighting to keep Alfonso in power, Regalado is probably only delaying the inevitable. Most likely, Alfonso has little more than 10 months left on the job, since the new mayor elected next November to replace Regalado is almost certain to name a new city manager. But the mayor and manager say they don’t intend to stand pat in 2017, and hope to make progress before Regalado steps down for good.
“This administration over the last three years has maintained good policies and procedures. Have there been mistakes made? Absolutely. We are working to fix those,” Alfonso said. “To the extent that we get bogged down with these issues … we’re losing our focus, and that’s my concern.”