When Beacon Council CEO Frank Nero sat down to meet with Miami-Dade Commissioner Lynda Bell in her Palmetto Bay office, the session did not go well.
“He wouldn’t even look at me,’’ Bell said Friday, recounting the meeting where Nero objected to her plan for reworking the tax-funded group’s arrangement with Miami-Dade. She said Nero at one point flung her proposal on her desk. “He was extremely rude. I was a little taken aback.”
The encounter, confirmed by one other participant, helped fuel events that led to Nero’s ouster Friday from his post as head of Miami-Dade’s official economic-development agency. His abrupt exit came after a string of private and public dust-ups with elected leaders throughout the county, from congressional offices in Washington to the mayor’s office in downtown Miami, according to internal emails and interviews with board members and others close to the nonprofit.
Nero was not available for an interview Friday, but issued a statement that read in part: “After close to 17 years at The Beacon Council, clearly it is time to do other things. The growth of Miami-Dade County as an international business center has been gratifying.”
His exit came after a closed-door meeting Friday morning by the business executives who make up the nonprofit’s board. One director said Nero was given a choice of resigning with six months’ severance from his $390,000-a-year position or be dismissed with a three-month severance package. Nero agreed to resign, effective Friday.
Robin Reiter, a former Beacon Council chairwoman and a longtime leader in the city’s philanthropic circles, will take over as part-time CEO at $12,000 a month. The Beacon Council plans a national search for Nero’s replacement, and Reiter said Friday she does not want the job.
“My role will be to be the glue that keeps everyone together. They are a wonderful group of professionals,’’ she said in an interview before her first meeting with Beacon staff. “Frank built a fabulous institution.”
Nero’s departure marked a sharp turnaround from a board who in August extended his contract for three years, and brings to an end a role that had Nero as Miami-Dade’s primary economic ambassador since the 1990s.
In the last year, he presided over a year-long study called One Community One Goal, which ended with a lengthy report that seeks to map a blueprint for the county’s economic growth. And in the group’s annual report, the Beacon Council touted a year in which the group said it assisted businesses in adding 2,000 jobs in Miami-Dade, including an incentive package for Univision’s new cable network with ABC in Doral.
“I do believe Frank Nero did a wonderful service for our organization and for the community,’’ said Joe Pallot, the general counsel of Heico and the current volunteer chairman of the Beacon Council.
Pallot presided over months of internal drama as Nero’s critics inside and outside the Beacon Council maneuvered to remove him. Fueling the revolt were signs that elected leaders crucial to the Beacon Council’s public dollars had grown tired of the former New Jersey politician’s hard-charging and sometimes abrasive persona.
In August, an aide to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wrote county officials that he was “taken aback” by a Nero letter to the Republican congresswoman. The subject was a global aviation show the Beacon Council wanted to hold at the Homestead air base but which the Pentagon had rejected as too cumbersome for the facility.