When it came time to start Monday morning’s Doral City Council meeting, three out of the five chairs on the dais were empty.
It was another unusual sight at City Hall, where tensions have grown in the wake of an incident between City Manager Joe Carollo and Venezuelan businessman Juan Carlos Tovar, which police are currently investigating.
A rift between Mayor Luigi Boria and Carollo may have grown further Monday, when after a short non-meeting — the council can’t act without at least three members present — Boria called for a public evaluation of Carollo’s performance as city manager.
Boria, one of two council members present for the meeting he hastily called late last week, had wanted to discuss the confrontation last week between Tovar and Carollo. Tovar has said Carollo grabbed Tovar’s arm and made racist remarks toward him in City Hall after a zoning meeting. Carollo has denied those allegations.
Councilwomen Ana Maria Rodriguez, Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera and Christi Fraga had prior arrangements and couldn’t make the meeting, which was scheduled after Tovar’s attorney sent a letter to the city on Sept. 26 asking officials to preserve potential evidence in anticipation of a lawsuit.
Only Boria and Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz, who said she first learned of the meeting from reading the newspaper before getting an email invitation from the city clerk, were on hand.
Boria asked to remove the discussion about the incident and added an evaluation of Carollo to the next meeting’s agenda, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Oct. 9 at the Doral Government Center, 8401 NW 53rd Terr.
Boria said it was a good time to publicly evaluate the city manager, and he insisted the recent controversy has nothing to do with it.
“It has nothing to do with the allegations,” he said.
Monday afternoon, Councilwoman Ana Maria Rodriguez said she didn’t understand why Boria wanted to discuss the incident.
“I’m not really sure what he was trying to accomplish,” she said.
She said she would give Carollo good marks on his appraisal, noting that she’d be worried if the accusations sparked the mayor’s call for an evaluation.
“If he’s going to be basing his whole evaluation on an incident that may or may not have happened, then I have major concern about the mayor’s ability to evaluate his employees,” she said.
Tovar and his company, Grand Floridian, LLC, have made headlines in recent months after concerns were raised over a potential conflict of interest for Boria on a zoning vote to allow a Grand Floridian project to move forward.
Tovar formerly co-owned the company with Boria’s children, who sold their shares to him in May. Tovar is also a client of Luigi Boria’s international computer component distribution company.
The Miami-Dade Ethics Commission recently opined that Boria had not violated any ethics code but should continue to recuse himself from any actions related to Grand Floridian.
After Monday’s meeting, Carollo said he thought Boria might be angling to give Carollo a raise after complimenting him and Finance Director Eliza Rassi for a job well done during this year’s budget season.
“I would imagine maybe that’s what he wants to do after what he had told her before,” Carollo said with a grin.
He told reporters he wouldn’t imagine Boria would be reacting to the incident in question, citing a letter Boria’s attorney sent to local media and city employees.
“Mayor Boria will recuse himself from any city action involving the owner of the Grand Floridian project, even actions unrelated to the Grand Floridian because the owner is a regular customer of Mayor Boria’s private company, which sells computers and extends routine lines of credit to purchasers,” he read.
Follow @joeflech on Twitter.