Doral

City Hall feud in Doral escalates with arrest

 

jflechas@MiamiHerald.com

The drama at Doral City Hall has turned from soap opera to searing reality.

Two weeks after a tussle between a developer and City Manager Joe Carollo made headlines, an old charge of Carollo’s who is now the city’s police chief, ordered Juan Carlos Tovar to turn himself in for allegedly faslifying a police report.

In the report, Tovar claimed that Carollo grabbed him and called him, in Spanish, a “Venezuelan piece of sh--,” an exchange captured on surveillance video.

Mayor Luigi Boria called it “silly.”

Doral Police Chief Richard Blom doesn’t think it’s funny.

And Tovar surrendered around 8:40 a.m. Wednesday. He walked into the front door with his attorney and processed inside the police station. He was handcuffed, taken to the back of the station and driven away in a Doral police cruiser.

“I trust he’ll be at the station at 10 a.m.,” said Blom, who was hired by Carollo in February after having had a long working relationship with him from their days with the city of Miami. Blom said Tuesday he contacted Tovar’s attorney, and they agreed to have Tovar surrender Wednesday.

Tovar’s attorney, Jesus Suarez, confirmed this — and called the police actions an abuse of power.

“The city of Doral has chosen to arrest Mr. Tovar for reporting that City Manager Joe Carollo had threatened him and denigrated his Venezuelan nationality,” Suarez wrote in an email Tuesday night. “This is an injustice and an abuse of Doral’s police powers to serve Mr. Carollo’s political interests.”

Tovar, a real estate developer, ex-client of Boria and former business partner of Boria’s adult children, Alexander and Lorena, faces a first-degree misdemeanor charge of giving false information to the police, which could result in up to a year behind bars.

The brouhaha began during a Sept. 25 meeting at which the City Council unanimously approved a zoning change that benefitted Tovar’s planned luxury home development. After the vote, Tovar and Carollo exchanged words behind closed doors outside the council chambers.

Tovar told police Carollo pulled him by the arm into another room and called him a “Venezuelan piece of “sh--” and a chavista, a follower of the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, according to the police report.

Boria, who is also Venezuelan, came under scrutiny this summer because of his connection to Tovar, an ex-client of the mayor’s international computer component distribution business, TWC (The Wise Computer).

Facing questions from fellow council members and the community about his relationship with Tovar, Boria requested an opinion from the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. The Ethics Commission ruled the mayor had not violated any ethics code because he had recused himself from voting on matters pertaining to Tovar.

It also said Boria should continue to recuse himself from any votes or actions regarding Tovar.

Blom and other Doral police officers have longtime ties to Carollo, a former Miami mayor and city commissioner first elected in 1979, who knew Blom from his rise through the Miami Police Department, from 1975 to 2006. Carollo chose Blom to head the Doral Police Department in February, shortly after Boria recommended him to become Doral’s city manager in January.

Blom dismissed any accusation of impropriety Tuesday night.

“We were investigating a complaint filed by Mr. Tovar,” he said. “He’s the one who filed the complaint.”

He added that the investigators asked the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office for an opinion on whether the police had probable cause to arrest Tovar. Blom said Tuesday the state attorney’s office issued an opinion on Friday agreeing with the police.

Blom insisted Doral investigators visit the state attorney’s office in person on Monday with the investigation file, including surveillance footage of the incident.

“If I would have done it Friday, I think that would have been jumping the gun,” Blom said.

The state attorney’s office could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

Tovar’s agreement to surrender will come hours before the first City Council meeting since Boria publicly stated he wants Carollo out. Last week, Boria told reporters he “regretted” recommending Carollo for the city manager position, saying, “It was the biggest mistake I’ve ever done in my life.”

The council will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Doral Government Center, 8401 NW 53rd Ter.

Councilwoman Ana María Rodríguez said Tuesday she didn’t know what to expect from the police investigation. She said she wanted to wait before reaching a conclusion.

“I think it’s really sad these people were dishonest with our police department, when they came in and said what they said,” she said, referring to Tovar. “When you’re dishonest, you have to pay the consequences.”

Carollo called council members Tuesday night to inform them of the pending arrest.

“The American way, that Mr. Tovar showed such disdain for, is what provided justice at the end,” Carollo said.

Boria acknowledged that although he doesn’t have the votes on the council to dismiss Carollo — only councilwoman Sandra Ruiz has expressed her doubts about Carollo — he plans to raise the issue at every meeting from here on out.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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