Stoddard wants the chief fired. However, if the chief were to be fired without cause, the city would have to pay out the remainder of his five-year contract, which ends in October 2015.
The ethics commission meeting drew a crowd of more than a dozen, including South Miami’s three commissioners and Vice Mayor Joshua Liebman who all spoke during the public comment session.
Commissioner Bob Welsh asked the commission to reject the settlement agreement and take the case to a public hearing. Welsh noted that Airways Auto Tag is 11 miles from South Miami, and that another tag agency is 100 feet outside the city limits.
Commissioner Walter Harris said that if the commission knew that the chief committed the violations willfully but overlooks it, “then you are in grievous violation of the very ethics that you’re up here to protect.”
Commissioner Valerie Newman called De Castro “the best chief South Miami has ever had,” and said that she had personal knowledge the chief was not involved in the day-to- day operations of his wife’s agency.
Liebman also spoke in support of the chief, saying he believed the police department went to Airways because it received better service there.
“How far would you drive for better service?” Liebman asked commission members.
Liebman also decried the dysfunction of the city commission and a culture of instability, citing the city’s very high turnover rate for city managers.
South Miami resident John Edward Smith echoed Liebman’s concerns about dysfunction, but went even further saying, “This is nothing but a witch hunt conducted by a few individuals within the city that is ongoing and detrimental to the well-being of our community. It involves the termination of city managers so that the will of the commission to terminate the chief can be effected.”
De Castro refused to comment on the case, and referred questions to his attorney, Simon Steckel.
When asked if he believed the chief’s job was sufficiently protected, Steckel replied, “based on the settlement agreement, absolutely.”