Community News - Latest

Miami Shores

Miami Shores councilman tries to get colleague fired


Jim McCoy’s letter

Miami Shores Chamber Board Member,

I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that Jesse Walters’ conduct warrants his immediate dismissal as the paid representative of the Miami Shores Chamber of Commerce.

There have been an extraordinary amount of inappropriate decisions made by Walters, including Sunday’s Herald highly inaccurate and inflammatory quotes; any one of which should be cause for chamber board concern, but taken in its entirety, is an astonishing list of etiquette disregard that has caused a great deal of harm to the chamber and divisiveness throughout our community. It’s regrettable that this list of behavior was compiled by an individual who, as a paid representative of the chamber, has the responsibility of conducting himself with a heighten sense of tact and sensitivity.

It is certainly clear that Walter’s strong views as a political activist are not compatible with his position as the executive director of a neutral, non-political membership organization. Walters has fallen alarmingly short is in his representation of an organization that represents a paid membership body with a wide spectrum of beliefs and views.

I support Jesse’s right to express his political and social views and to actively promote them freely throughout the community. What I am adamantly opposed to is him doing it while being paid as the executive director of a chamber of commerce that services that very same community.

Maintaining both positions of councilman and chamber executive director would require exceptional sensitivity to political and community etiquette. To succeed in this balance, there would need to be a heightened level of understanding, tact and grace. I feel Walters has unfortunately demonstrated a remarkable disregard for the slightest of these standards.

Jesse has demonstrated an excessive ineptness to handling this potential conflict with the needed sensitivity required. His divisive conduct and polarizing behavior towards those who don’t align with his passionate views are incredibly inflammatory and have offended a great deal of chamber membership and our community’s residents alike.

Executive director of the chamber and councilman are not compatible positions. This circumstance is extremely exasperated by allowing an activist of any kind to occupy both roles. It would be wise for chamber leadership to adopt the following criteria as they go about finding their new executive director:

The chamber’s executive director should hold no political office or be engaged in any political process in Miami Shores outside of the chamber’s expressed and approved interests.

Having now experienced this recent season of inappropriate behavior, I believe the merits of mandating this guideline should be perfectly clear. In the absence of chamber leadership taking appropriate action, it is with a heavy heart I communicate after 14 years of involvement, that I will no longer be able to support this organization.

I appreciate your efforts as you evaluating this unpleasant circumstance. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss further my viewpoint.

-Jim McCoy

Miami Shores Councilman Jim McCoy has asked the village’s Chamber of Commerce to fire their executive director, the village’s Vice Mayor Jesse Walters.

In an email dated April 15, nearly a week after the April 9 Village Council election, McCoy addressed the chamber’s board members and suggested that Walters’ rhetoric during and after the election made him unsuited to his paid position with the chamber.

The offenses McCoy listed include quotes Walters made to The Miami Herald immediately following the April 9 election.

During the campaign, Walters ran as a part of a three-person coalition including Ivonne Ledesma and Jonas Georges. Had all three won the election, Walters’ “progressive” council members would have held a majority of the five seats.

The three open council seats went to Herta Holly, Walters, and Ledesma in order of votes received. While Walters and Ledesma won seats on the council, they expressed disappointment that Georges didn’t win. They said that they doubted their ability to do meaningful work on the council during this term.

In an April 14 article about the election results, Walters told the newspaper: “I don’t think without the third vote we’re going to be able to accomplish much, frankly,” and “I believe that they will vote as a block to maintain the status quo at any cost. This will mean a continuation of virtually all-white governmental appointments, an anti-business stance to any new initiatives that may be proposed, and a deaf ear to any hope for a new Community Center.”

McCoy said in his letter that those comments were “highly inaccurate and inflammatory.” He went on to say that whoever is the Chamber of Commerce’s executive director “has the responsibility of conducting himself with a heightened sense of tact and sensitivity” and that Walters did not do so.

At the April 16 Village Council meeting, the three new council members were sworn in. During that event Walters spoke briefly and apologized for his comments to The Herald. He said he was upset and tired when he made his remarks both in person and via email in the days immediately following the election.

This public apology echoed one made earlier that day to the chamber’s board if directors. The board members met informally following a regularly scheduled meeting. The chamber’s acting president, Lance Harke, said, “it was in that context that Jesse did say that his comments in The Miami Herald were intemperate.”

Harke said, “we have heard from members of the community and many board members” about Walters’ remarks. The chamber is evaluating all of these comments and McCoy’s letter. “We’re not going to move precipitously. We’re trying to take a long hard look and see where we come out.”

There is no rule stopping a chamber’s executive director from holding political office. McCoy suggested, however, that the Chamber should institute a policy that the “executive director should hold no political office or be engaged in any political process in Miami Shores” beyond what the position calls for.

Harke said, “there is no per se conflict between a Chamber executive holding political office.” He added that “the question is whether in practicality” there are specific issues that may come up that put the roles in conflict.

McCoy, outside of his position as council member, is the managing director of KW Commercial – Miami. The company, a commercial real estate brokerage, is a member of the chamber. In his letter, McCoy said that if the Chamber Board did not take “appropriate action” he would cease his involvement with the organization.

Harke said that McCoy is “a highly respected member of the community” and “I take his words very seriously.” However, Harke said, “we’re acting very prudently. We’re trying to be as careful and cautious as we can be.” This is for out of respect for Walters as well as chamber members concerned about his comments.

The next Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee meeting will be held May 14 at 4:30 p.m. at the chamber offices, 9701 NE Second Ave. The Board of Directors will meet on May 21 at 4:30 p.m. at Doctors Charter School, 11301 NW Fifth Ave.

The next village council meeting will be May 7 at 7 p.m. at Village Hall, 10050 NE Second Ave.

Read more Community News - Latest stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK