The mayor’s chief ally on the commission is Bob Welsh, known as Bicycle Bob because he spent years pedaling around town on a girls’ blue coaster bike handing out political flyers and railing against “big money interests.” During the Mariel boatlift, he met newly arrived refugees and handed them Spanish-language joke books that he had written. Bicycle Bob was elected this past February, beating Armando Oliveros, a former commissioner whose time on the dais was interrupted by a prison sentence for money laundering.
When the spirit moves him, Bob breaks out into song or recites poems during public meetings. A week ago Tuesday, he burst forth with Don Henley’s Dirty Laundry, to lament a report on WSVN-Fox 7 titled “The Naked Truth.” It was aired after Newman’s public outburst over “nudity” and “scoundrels” on the commission.
Newman was referring to an odd episode 20 months earlier at Mayor Stoddard’s three-bedroom home. The mayor’s parents were visiting and were sleeping in his daughter’s bedroom. Displaced from her own room, his teenage daughter chose to sleep that night on a futon in the bedroom of her parents –– Stoddard and his wife, Gray Read.
An exchange student also was staying in the home, in a different bedroom, Stoddard said. It was about 6 a.m. and Stoddard’s parents had left to drive Read to the airport. Someone broke into the house. The exchange student walked out of her room and found the burglar in the kitchen. She screamed, ran to the bathroom and locked herself inside. Stoddard bolted out of his bedroom as the burglar fled. The mayor was naked. When a police officer arrived, the cop saw him putting on his pants.
The initial report of the crime made no mention of nudity. But in early July, days after Stoddard roiled the waters at a commission meeting by raising red flags about supposed bid collusion on a sidewalk project, police officers supplemented the report to note that the mayor likes to sleep in the buff.
Relations between the mayor and the manager and chief began to deteriorate after Stoddard criticized their friendship with a former Latin Builders Association president, Camilo Padreda, who is a convicted felon and former FBI informant. The mayor questioned the (competitively bid) award of a city carpet contract to Padreda’s daughter.
The feud intensified in late June when a friend of the mayor, a UM professor, was jailed on a charge of disorderly conduct. The professor says he wagged his finger at a South Miami officer for making an illegal left turn. The officer, who was responding to a 911 call, says the prof used his middle finger.
The charge was reduced to resisting arrest without violence and the educator participated in a pre-trial program.
The broadside about “housing a wanted criminal in his back yard” was a blast at Bicycle Bob, who had been letting a homeless friend stay in a makeshift shelter as he worked on one of Welsh’s properties. The worker was an undocumented Canadian with a drug charge on his rap sheet who did work for neighbors sometimes in exchange for beer. Cops detained him, questioned him and turned him over to immigration in early July.
Tensions have spilled beyond the city’s borders all the way to Tallahassee. Three days after the manager was axed, former Miami Police Chief Kenneth Harms wrote a scathing four-page letter to Stoddard, calling his behavior “creepy, crude and bizarre” and demanding he apologize and resign. The diatribe was forwarded to FIU and the office of Gov. Rick Scott.
No apology or resignation has been forthcoming.
Vice Mayor Joshua Liebman, a political rookie who ran on a platform to “restore trust and civility at City Hall,” was asked this week how that effort is going.
“The definition of insanity,” Liebman said, “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That is what is happening here. Something has to change.”