The city of Doral lost a high-profile city official for the second time in as many weeks on Tuesday.
Just days after the unexpected departure of the city manager, temporary replacement Merrett Stierheim announced he was firing the city’s police chief.
Stierheim said he has spent the last few days reviewing administrative files — including a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report detailing an investigation into Chief Ricardo “Ricky” Gomez and possible bid-rigging and misuse of funds.
Gomez was cleared of wrongdoing in that case by the State Attorney’s Office, but Stierheim said he was dismayed by what he described as a cliquish, insular culture when reviewing the files.
“I gave the chief the opportunity to resign. He declined I said, ‘If you are not willing to resign then I am going to fire you now,’” said Stierheim. “At 9:30 this morning he was in my office. He made that decision.”
Gomez said the dismissal was unexpected.
"This decision took me by surprise," Gomez said in a statement to El Nuevo Herald.
Lt. Miguel "Mike" Pérez was named as interim chief, said city spokeswoman Natalie French.
Gomez said he was summoned to a meeting with Stierheim, who last week was named interim city manager, who presented him with two options: "Either you resign or you’re fired."
"I told him to fire me," said Gomez, , adding that he asked the manager if he could collect his belongings from the police headquarters, a request which was denied. The fired chief also was stripped of his gun and his assigned vehicle.
Stierheim’s account, shared at a press conference Tuesday morning outside the newly completed Doral City Hall, largely jibed with the former chief’s — although Stierheim noted the city would make arrangements to deliver Gomez’s personal belongings to his home.
Gomez, who has a pending lawsuit against two former city officials and a current councilwoman related to the fallout from the FDLE investigation, said he was once again considering legal action.
"It was outrageous. Now what I want is to talk to my lawyer to see what steps I will take," he told El Nuevo Herald.
Gomez said he planned to hold a press conference Wednesday morning to address his next step.
The most recent upheaval comes less than a month after a historic election that installed only the second mayor in the city’s young history.
The political fate of both Gomez and former city manager Yvonne Soler McKinley had been the subject of intense speculation — and accusations that newly elected Mayor Luigi Boria had promised to fire the duo in exchange for potentially key endorsement
Boria said there would be a transition process that would include keeping Gomez and Soler McKinley in their posts.
But last week Soler McKinley abruptly announced retirement and the city council appointed Stierheim in her place.
Stierheim emphasized during an interview Tuesday afternoon that the decision to fire Gomez was not politically motivated.
“Neither the mayor nor the any member of the city council directed, encouraged me to take the action that I have taken," Stierheim. "This was my decision, 100 percent."
Stierheim said that FDLE report raised several red flags, such as what he called as a pattern of favoritism in the department.
“There were people that felt that certain officers were fired that should not have been fired,” Stierheim said. “There were people hired that should not have been hired, or there were reasons they should not have been hired, a whole series of things.”