Opa-locka city commissioners voted overwhelmingly Tuesday not to fire City Manager Steve Shiver less than two months after hiring him —amid a recent allegation by a local contractor that Shiver solicited a hefty bribe.
The commission voted 4-1 to keep Shiver in his 2 1/2-year contract as city manager.
After surviving the vote of confidence, a moist-eyed Shiver said he was “humbled” by the support. “I'm trying not to cry,” he told the Miami Herald. “When stuff like this happens, it’s an emotional time.”
During the discussion, Commissioner Joseph Kelley emphasized he didn't support the item or paying Shiver an $80,000 severance, which he said would have been the cost of the termination, according to Shiver's agreement. That’s because under the agreement, the city commission can only end Shiver’s contract if he leaves his job or he’s charged with a crime.
“If someone has a valid reason the manager is not doing his job in the future, put it in the document so I can see it before I come out here just to come out here,” Kelley said. “But please let’s not waste any more time with these meetings if we’re not going to have something concrete.”
I'm trying not to cry. When stuff like this happens, it’s an emotional time.
Opa-locka City Manager Steve Shiver
After the vote, Vice Mayor Timothy Holmes said Shiver’s “performance has been good.”
“All I know is that I wish [Commissioner Luis Santiago] would have taken the time and thought about it before wasting all these people’s time to come out here tonight,” Holmes said. “It shouldn’t have been brought in the first place.”
Santiago, who called the special meeting to consider firing Shiver, said nothing during and after the proceeding. He cast the dissenting vote.
About 100 employees and residents attended the meeting, with several expressing frustration over the city’s management.
“You brought this man in here. You gave him a contract,” Johnnie Mae Greene told the commissioners. “I’m a senior citizen and I’m tired of paying for your mistakes.”
Opa-locka hired Shiver in early September with a salary of $150,000 a year. The vote was 3-2. Mayor Myra Taylor and commissioners Terence Pinder and Santiago approved his hire, while Kelley and Holmes voted against.
Shiver, a former Homestead mayor and Miami-Dade County manager, faced almost immediate scrutiny in his new job. Shiver received a letter from a local contractor, George Howard, on Oct. 16, accusing him of soliciting a $150,000 bribe in exchange for the city paying Howard’s final invoice on a sewer project. Howard said the city manager indicated the alleged bribe payment was meant for the mayor.
But the allegation was not even discussed at Tuesday’s meeting.
Shiver refused to comment about the accusation, leaving himself vulnerable. Instead, he penned a letter six days later to Gov. Rick Scott, detailing the city's financial crisis and criticizing prior officials for mismanaging Opa-locka.
“Due to numerous changes in city managers and top staff, poor decisions over recent years have led to today’s major cash flow crisis,” Shiver wrote. “The city remains challenged in paying its bills timely and, every two weeks is challenged just to meet staff payroll needs.”
Meanwhile, Howard, president of the Pembroke Pines-based United States Association of CDC, accused him of soliciting a bribe in exchange for the city paying the company's final $272,000 bill on the sewer project.
On Oct. 14, commissioners voted 4-1 not to pay him, based on advice from Shiver and the city attorney. Only the mayor voted in favor of Howard, who took on the pump station project because it would service his renovation of a nearby apartment complex.
Howard, in a letter obtained by the Herald, claimed Shiver “expressly stated” the bill could be paid only if he paid a kickback to Taylor. The mayor has said she didn't know what the letter was about.