For two years, several Doral citizens advisory boards have become “ghost organizations” that do not meet due to a lack of quorum.
A total of 62 meetings of the boards were canceled from 2013 through last week because most of their members did not attend, according to city documents.
The chronic lack of quorums and the naming to the boards of Mayor Luigi Boria’s relatives and supporters have prompted taking the issue to a popular vote through an amendment to the city charter. The amendment proposes that nominations to advisory boards be made by the full City Council, not solely by the mayor.
Community activist Felipe E. Madrigal said that when Boria took office in November 2012, he nominated people who were not necessarily qualified. From nine citizens advisory boards functioning that year, the number grew to 15 in 2013, much higher than the number of such boards in more-populous cities like Miami (11) and Hialeah (9).
Doral now has 13 citizens advisory boards.
“When Boria became mayor he asked for the resignation of all board members and then named his own campaign people,” Madrigal said. “He even named some of his own relatives.”
Madrigal was referring to the mayor’s sister-in-law, Marisela Boria, named to the Status of Women Advisory Board, and her son, Gian Andrés Boria, named to the Youth Advisory Board.
Board members receive no compensation.
Boria said he did not think there was anything inappropriate in naming his relatives, whose appointments were confirmed by the City Council. He added that, though he acknowledges that some boards “have failed” due to lack of attendance by their members, the problem was the “lack of experience” of the people appointed.
“Most boards have done a terrific job, others have failed perhaps due to lack of experience, but it’s all a matter of adaptation,” Boria said. “I don’t think it was necessary to take the issue to an amendment.”
With a population of more than 400,000, the city of Miami has 11 citizen boards. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said the boards meet regularly, and when a member misses more than three board meetings, that person is replaced. The mayor and city commissioners nominate the members.
“These boards are the mirror of our city,” said Regalado. Asked whether he considered it appropriate to appoint the mayor’s relatives to a city board, he replied, “I would never do it; it’s not usually done.”
Five of the 13 Doral boards show long lists of canceled meetings due to lack of attendance by their members. The case of the Citizens Audit Advisory Board is noteworthy: It did not meet throughout most of 2013 due to a lack of quorum. This year, some of its members resigned.
“This board functioned very precariously due to lack of attendance and resignations,” said Norberto Spangaro, a former Citibank executive who has chaired the Audit Advisory Board since June.
The Community and Faith Based Charities Advisory Board was created under former Mayor Juan Carlos Bermúdez following a proposal by then-City Council member Boria. It initially had seven members, and later grew to 12.
Ralph Gómez, who chairs what is known as the Faith Board, said the membership grew to include more members because of the different religions practiced in Doral. However, most of the pastors who were appointed do not attend the meetings.
Last week, only three of the Faith Board’s 12 members attended the scheduled meeting: Gómez, Edwin Castro and Joaquín Molina. Although they comprised only one-fourth of the group, they were able to meet under a measure approved by the council last year that established three members as a “minimum quorum,” Gómez said.
During the meeting, Gómez referred to the constant absenteeism of some members, an issue that had already been presented to Boria.
“In June we talked to the mayor about the chronic absence of members,” Gómez said. “Many fail to consider the cost involved in participating in this type of board.”
On Aug. 6, a single member of the Green Initiative Task Force showed up for its meeting. There was nothing Nelsy Suárez could do in the absence of the rest of the group. That board has five seats, one of which was held by a member who died last year and had yet to be replaced. Another member had not attended any of the seven meetings scheduled so far this year, although he remains a member of the group.
In the case of the Green Initiative Task Force, Boria said he had not named a replacement of the deceased member because there was a proposal to merge the group with the Environmental Advisory Board.
Boria said city attorneys have been evaluating this issue for a few months and that by September a final proposal will be submitted to decide how the boards should operate.
“We want to unify the board system in order to standardize its performance,” Boria said. “But I insist that, though there have been boards that have not been sufficiently active, most of them are.”