Miami-Dade County

Bitterness after Miami-Dade property appraiser’s race still strong

 

Months after he lost the race to retain his post, County Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia won’t let his successor into the office at County Hall.

crabin@MiamiHerald.com

They fought like school chil−

dren for months before the August

primary election. Now, months af−

ter the public chose former state

House Majority Leader Carlos Lo−

pez-Cantera to succeed Pedro J.

Garcia as Miami-Dade’s property

appraiser, their bitter battle still

burns.

The crux of the fight: Lopez-Cantera, who doesn’t officially take the reins of the 371-person department until Jan. 8, says Garcia won’t let him inside the department doors.

Garcia doesn’t dispute Lopez-Cantera’s claim. He says he’s just too busy.

“I’m not a happy camper, I can tell you that,” Garcia told The Miami Herald. “I don’t like the way he’s been acting. He’s been on radio, he’s been on television.”

Replies Lopez-Cantera: “He’s given me information that’s basically’’ public record. “He hasn’t let me physically into the office. He hasn’t given me access to the whole team.”

Garcia’s unhappiness is rooted in the way he lost the election. He won the early and Election Day votes, but lost the absentee ballot count by such a large margin that it cost him the victory. Garcia hired attorney Stephen Cody to represent him in a ballot fraud case, but dropped the lawsuit after Cody resigned for unexplained reasons.

Since then, Lopez-Cantera says he’s been asking Garcia to allow him to get a jump start on viewing the inner workings of the department, like how the homestead exemption fraud team works. The department has a $33 million budget and operates on three floors of County Hall.

Garcia said he has assigned his “right-hand-man” Lazaro Soliz, to help Lopez-Cantera in the transition. But Lopez-Cantera says that’s not enough.

Lopez-Cantera has taken to the airwaves to voice his concerns, speaking on Spanish language radio, and to various television and newspaper outlets. That has further angered Garcia. Last week Lopez-Cantera wrote Garcia a letter, again asking for admittance to the office.

Garcia said he’s received the letter, and is pondering it.

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has given Lopez-Cantera the use of a 22nd floor County Hall office that has been empty for years. Mayoral spokeswoman Suzy Trutie said it’s not costing anything because therer are “no phones, no computers, no anything. He needed a place to hold meetings.”

Lopez-Cantera said he needs to be in the real office to check out “the minutiae, the details.’’

Tough luck, Garcia said.

“We’ve been busy. If he wants to learn from me, well, I’m not a teacher.”

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