Doral city manager to remain in office after 3-2 council vote
DORAL, Fla. (WSVN) -- Insults and applause marked a tense Doral City Council meeting held in part to decide whether or not to fire city manager Joe Carollo.
Just after 6 p.m., Doral Mayor Luigi Boria made the case to terminate Carollo's contract, but by 7 p.m. the city manager and former Miami mayor had a 3-2 vote of confidence from the city council. For the time being, Carollo said, he will stay put.
The meeting came hours after South Florida real estate developer Juan Carlos Tovar turned himself in to authorities after allegedly providing police with false information regarding an alleged argument he had with Carollo in the city manager's office Sept. 25. Tovar told police Carollo grabbed his arm and used a derogatory term referring to his Venezuelan nationality.
Tovar's attorney, Jesus Suarez, said, "We don't think that it is a coincidence that this arrest took place on the eve of a meeting to consider terminating the city manager."
Carollo denied both of Tovar's allegations, just hours after the real estate developer's arrest. "Absolutely not," he said. The former Miami mayor indicated he did not call the developer a racial epithet. "Absolutely not; my wife is Venezuelan," he said.
A statement released by Doral Police backs up Carollo's assertions. It reads, "It was evident that no battery took place, and the actions that Mr. Tovar alleged to have occurred simply did not happen."
Tovar had no comment after he bonded out of jail and stepped into a white BMW two-seater that drove off.
The alleged exchange happened after the Sept. 25 meeting, during which a real estate development deal involving Tovar and, at one time, Boria's adult children, was scrutinized. The deal was also investigated by an ethics committee.
During the meeting, Carollo told Tovar, "You know, Mr. Tovar, this is not Venezuela, that you could do whatever you please here." Carollo said he pulled the deal off the meeting's agenda.
Surveillance video provided by the city shows Tovar entering the area leading to the city manager's office after the meeting adjourned. A man identified as Tovar's associate, Javier Bellon, is seen filming video of something inside the office. Shortly thereafter, Police Chief Richard Blom, who was appointed by Carollo, is then seen escorting Tovar away from the office suite.
A city spokesperson said police are also looking to arrest Bellon for allegedly making false statements.
Carollo said it was Tovar who verbally attacked him. "The minute he walked in, he started blasting me, and he threatened me with my job," he said.
City officials did not provide surveillance video from the actual altercation. According to Carollo, he had the cameras removed from his office for privacy concerns.
"I don't have the right to terminate him," said Boria, Wednesday afternoon, about Carollo. "It's because he has had behaviors, erratic, seen before."
Doral Vice-Mayor Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera said Carollo should remain in office because the city has seen too many city managers come and go in a short span of time.
Later, during Wednesday's city council meeting, Boria accused Carollo of showing Doral Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz's campaign documents to The Miami Herald. "He showed The Miami Herald all the documents that you had when you were campaigning, and he was very outrageous."
Ruiz responded, "Mr. Mayor, for clarification, are you telling me that the manager went to the Doral Spa and obtained my personal hotel expenses?"
"Wow!" was Ruiz's only response.
Addressing the press after the meeting ended, Boria compared the events of the past several weeks to a telenovela. "It looks like a soap opera, but that's going to happen every now and then with a person that has behavior problems, attacks [the] integrity of the people and abuses his power," he said.
As a Miami commissioner in the 1980s, Carollo was dubbed "Crazy Joe" for his fiery temperament. While serving as Miami mayor, he was arrested for allegedly throwing a cardboard tea box at his then wife. Those charges were later dropped.
"What does 1980, what does 1525 have to do with this?" Carollo told a 7News reporter when asked about his past tenure. "This is 2013, when an individual thinks his money can buy him anything," he added, taking a potshot at Tovar.
Suarez thinks political gain is behind Tovar's arrest. "The fact that Mr. Tovar was asked to be arrested today is to serve Mr. Carollo's political interests," he said.
Tovar's attorney said his client looks forward to telling his side of the story. "Mr. Tovar looks forward to the day that he can present these facts in a court of law, in accordance with the American way in the United States of America," said Suarez.
Carollo said he plans to defend himself in Doral, and he won't leave any stone unturned. "I am going to go into everything, from A to Z, the good, the bad and the ugly," he said. "I think everybody will understand why the mayor did the things he did, and why Mr. Tovar lied to get me arrested and to get me fired."
Carollo was unable to speak at Wednesday's council meeting. He will have that opportunity at a special meeting scheduled for next week.
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