Former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo began his term as Doral’s latest city manager — the third to hold the position in just five weeks — by suggesting his predecessor, Merrett Stierheim, was biased against Hispanics.
“Apparently, what he thought is that Hispanics can’t govern themselves and that we need someone like him, that he considers himself the ‘great white hope.’ He is very mistaken,” Carollo told El Nuevo reporter Enrique Flor in an interview Thursday at Doral City Hall.
Stierheim, a respected 45-year municipal manager who abruptly resigned Wednesday as Doral’s interim city manager, said Thursday he wouldn’t “dignify that kind of comment. It’s not worthy.
“Joe Carollo’s comments speak more to his character than to mine,’’ said Stierheim, 79. “I think my life has been an open book. And that’s it.’’
It was the first day on the job for the bombastic Carollo, 57, who was hired the night before by the Doral City Council in a 5-0 vote. He will make $144,000 a year.
Stierheim was tapped to fill the manager’s position temporarily after former city manager Yvonne Soler-McKinley stepped down a week after Mayor Luigi Boria was elected in November. Stierheim was hired to lead the search for a new manager.
In his resignation letter to the mayor, Stierheim wrote he was “disappointed” he was not included in the selection of a new city manager — a task that was outlined in Stierheim’s $9,500-a-month contract.
“I would be less than honest not to express my disappointment with your reluctance to share with me who your candidate is and that you do not want a period of transition between me and the next city manager,” he wrote to Boria, a self-made millionaire who runs a computer wholesale company. “The wisdom and reasons for that decision are certainly questionable.”
There may be other reasons for Stierheim’s sudden departure.
Stierheim acknowledged Thursday that he got into a verbal argument earlier this week with Carollo — though neither man would say what sparked the confrontation. During the argument, Stierheim said he threatened to quit.
“We got into a confrontation, and I said the resignation statement,” Stierheim told The Miami Herald during a telephone interview Thursday morning. “I don’t deny I said it, but it was directed at Joe.”
Boria said he wasn’t present for the verbal spat — even though Stierheim said it happened in the mayor’s office. The mayor called Stierheim a friend and said he was mostly happy with his performance — except when it came to the abrupt firing of Doral’s police chief.
“I would have liked that I was informed ahead of time,” Boria said.
Stierheim gave chief Ricardo “Ricky” Gomez the boot in December because of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the chief’s possible misuse of public funds. The State Attorney’s Office found no evidence that Gomez committed any crime.
Stierheim said Thursday he got the impression that, after the argument with Carollo, Boria wanted him to resign.
Carollo served as Boria’s campaign advisor and has recently become a fixture at city hall.