The North Miami City Council bypassed the deputy city manager and appointed the public works director as interim city manager Tuesday night.
Council members voted 4-1 to appoint Aleem Ghany to the top position in the city on an interim basis as the search begins for a new permanent city manager after Stephen Johnson chose to retire last Monday morning.
Johnson, who started working with the city 30 years ago, accepted an offer from the city of Miami Gardens to be its chief of police. His last day was Friday.
Councilwoman Scott Galvin nominated Ghany. Vice Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime, Councilmembers Carol Keys, Marie Steril and Galvin voted in favor, while Mayor Lucie Tondreau voted against.
“I was surprised by the appointent” Ghany said after the meeting. “I was overwhelmed a bit by the vote of confidence in my leadership ability.”
Tondreau had nominated Deputy City Manager Lumane Pluviose-Claude for the position. However, that appointment was voted down 3-2. Steril and Tondreau voted for it but Bien-Aime, Keys and Galvin were against. This did not sit well with the person who Johnson recommended to fill the position for at least the meantime.
“My husband told me that all copilots get their chance to land the plane; I feel that I did not get my chance.” she said from the dais. “I will compete and I will win.”
Although Johnson was confident in Pluviose-Claude’s ability to manage the city, he said any of the directors or managers under him could do the job well.
Johnson asked the council for 90-days severance of about $60,000 including his regular employee benefits. The council approved the request with a 3-2 vote. Tondreau, Steril and Bien-Aime wanted to give the severance but Galvin and Keys did not.
“With all due respect, you’re moving on to another position that will pay very well commensurate to your experience,” Galvin said to Johnson.
Johnson joined the city’s police department in April 1984 and became its police chief in August 2010. He became interim city manager in August 2011 and city manager that November.
Tondreau said that Johnson was worth the money, and it should have been the “council’s duty” to offer him the severance.
“Miami Gardens stole him from us,” she said during the meeting.
Ghany, the new interim manager, wants to do what he can to hopefully unify the city.
“I want to do the right thing to take the city forward so that there’s no longer any strife between the east and west, and that there’s only North Miami,” said Ghany, who has been with the city for about 20 years.