Doral’s new city manager will be paid just as much as his predecessor under the contract the City Council approved Wednesday.
The council voted to pay first-time manager Eddie Rojas $173,500 annually after initially considering a salary of $160,000. Council members reasoned that they should pay the higher figure because previous manager Joe Carollo made that much despite having no prior experience as a city manager.
“If the previous manager was earning that much, it’s only fair that Mr. Rojas should be paid the same amount,” said council member Ana María Rodríguez
The City Council approved Rojas’ contract by a 4-1 vote, with council member Sandra Ruiz opposed. Ruiz said that before approving the contract, she was waiting to get answers from the city attorney regarding why the human resources department had deemed Rojas unqualified for the job.
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Mayor Luigi Boria nominated Rojas Monday night, when he was similarly approved by a 4-1 vote, with Ruiz dissenting on the basis of Rojas’ lack of experience.
Boria told the Miami Herald that Doral HR informed him Rojas did not meet the requirement of a minimum of seven years of “increasingly responsible experience in a local public agency in an administrative, managerial and/or executive capacity.”
That did not sway the council majority. They touted his appointment as a message to city employees that the council wants promote from within.
Rojas, 45, became Doral’s building director last year after seven years working as a building inspector, plans examiner and floodplain manager, and a one-year stint as Surfside’s building director.
City Attorney Daniel Espino addressed one concern Ruiz had Monday night about a possible nepotism issue, since Rojas’ wife, Ingrid Balza, works as the chief licensing officer in the city’s planning and zoning department.
Espino said there is no nepotism problem because Rojas and his wife were married before his appointment as manager and he does not directly supervise her.
“The Doral city manager does not possess the authority to promote or advance his spouse because she does not report to him,” Espino said.
Under city policy, employees cannot hold jobs outside of City Hall. All council members agreed to allow Rojas six months to close out projects he is handling through CME Construction Management Enterprises, the private construction management firm he owns with his wife. Rojas said all of those projects are outside of Doral.
“I just need a period of time to start closing out and phasing out those projects,” he said.
Other highlights from Wednesday’s meeting:
• Doral may soon have a recycling program. Council members asked the city staff to draft an ordinance to create one for the council’s consideration.
• A bike-share program might be in the works. The city staff said it would cost $100,000 to start with 100 bicycles and about 20 stations throughout Doral. The public will be able to hear a full proposal and share feedback at a future workshop meeting.
• City Hall could soon have an internship program. The council had an initial discussion about a three-month program under which college interns would rotate weekly among the city’s departments and spend the last few weeks in their preferred department. A formal proposal will be considered later.