A Venezuelan businessman behind a luxury development project in Doral accused City Manager Joe Carollo of attacking him verbally and physically during a meeting late Wednesday night.
Carollo denied the accusation but said he did call Juan Carlos Tovar someone who is “plugged into” the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
The incident happened Wednesday night after Doral’s four council members approved a zoning change that benefits Tovar’s real-estate projects.
Until May, the project belonged in part to Alexander and Lorena Boria, the children of Doral Mayor Luigi Boria. The Boria children sold their half of the project to Tovar after ethical questions about the deal stalled its progress.
At the council meeting, Carollo warned Tovar’s lobbyists that they should behave professionally — and the “American way” — if they wanted the project to move forward.
After the council vote, Tovar said he approached Carollo outside the chambers to ask him to explain his comments.
“His comments were pretty racist,” said Tovar, who filed a complaint against Carollo with the Doral Police Department on Thursday morning. “It doesn’t matter where the investor comes from as long as he abides by all the laws.”
Tovar said Carollo pulled him by the arm to another room and called him a “Venezuelan piece of sh--” and a chavista — a supporter of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
In an interview Wednesday night, Tovar told el Nuevo Herald that a very distant relative, economist Eudomar Tovar, was recently named president of the Central Bank of Venezuela.
“In Venezuela the name Tovar is very common, and this is about someone I don’t have direct or indirect contact with,” he said. “I have nothing to do with that person. If they try to say that the money [for the development] came from that person, it’s not true either.”
But on Thursday, Tovar denied that the new bank president is a relative, saying he had been “joking” the night before when he was questioned by El Nuevo Herald.
Carollo, meanwhile, denied using offensive language or laying a finger on Tovar.
“That is a lie,” Carollo said. “I did not make any racist or discriminatory comment against Venezuelans.”
He added that Tovar threatened him saying that he could lose his job after the incident.
Doral police are investigating. Meanwhile, Boria has called for a special meeting for next week to discuss the incident between Carollo and Tovar, two councilwomen said. Boria did not return calls on Thursday.