Opa-locka rejects firing city attorney

06/12/2014 11:30 AM

06/12/2014 2:36 PM

Opa-locka City Attorney Joseph Geller is keeping his job.

The City Commission voted 4-1 Wednesday to reject a resolution sponsored by Commissioner Timothy Holmes that would have fired Geller. Holmes cast the only vote in favor.

After the meeting, Geller said he was grateful for the commission’s support.

“I’m gratified to be able to continue to serve the city,” he said. “I love the city of Opa-locka.”

Commissioner Luis Santiago questioned Holmes’ motive for offering the resolution, and wondered aloud whether it was personal. He said Geller works hard and did not deserve to lose his job.

“For the last six months he made some improvements,” Santiago said. “I don’t see any reason to do it. I will not support anything like that.”

Holmes said his recommendation was not personal, although he also said Geller verbally disrespected him at a meeting in his office.

“Anytime a man sits in my office and tells me, I am telling a ‘G.D. M.F. lie’ . . . I have lost all confidence in him.”

Commissioner Dorothy Johnson said she does not condone any employee disrespecting a commissioner, but the incident seemed out of character for Geller.

“I’ve never heard him in that fashion,” she said. “He is always so cordial. I would suggest that he had a bad moment.”

She recommended that the men meet in private to resolve the issue.

This was not the first time Geller was in jeopardy of losing his post. In December, Holmes sponsored a resolution to fire Geller, saying he wasn’t providing services to the city in a timely manner. Geller agreed to make changes, and Holmes agreed to withdraw her resolution.

Holmes said the intense meeting between him and Geller in his office put him in the mindset of segregated times when, he said, his father was verbally disrespected by white men and was forced to hold his head down while speaking to them. Holmes said that had this happened under different circumstances, things could have ended in a negative way.

“If I wasn’t as old as I was, if I was one of the street guys on the street, the police would have come there that day,” Holmes said. “But by being the man that I am, I was able to listen to what he had to stay.”

Santiago said he is thankful that times have changed. “We don’t have here any kind of problems that we had 60 to 80 years ago,” he said. “This is Opa-locka, a city that lives together.”

Also at Wednesday’s commission meeting, Vice Mayor Joseph Kelley awarded four Opa-locka students with trophies and Toys ‘R’ Us gift cards for winning the Father’s Day essay contest he sponsored.

The winners from Dr. Robert B. Ingram Elementary School were Cindy Morales, who won first place, and Makayla Mendez, who took home second place. The winners from Nathan B. Young Elementary School were Raziyah Wallace, first, and Jeremiah Nealy, second.

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