South Miami City Manager Hector Mirabile says one of his five bosses, city Commissioner Bob Welsh Jr., is interfering in Mirabile’s job.
Mayor Philip Stoddard was prepared to censure Welsh at Thursday’s commission meeting for “his persistent interference” with the planning of the Murray Park community pool.
But before the meeting, Welsh, known as “Bicycle Bob,” spent hours riding his bicycle around South Miami distributing a flier asking residents to support him by coming to City Hall and speaking against the resolution. About a dozen showed up to defend him, but commission rules don’t allow public remarks during the type of meeting held Thursday. Stoddard withdrew the resolution because he wasn’t interested in “adding more fuel to an already blazing fire.”
Mirabile, meanwhile, filed a complaint with the Miami-Dade ethics commission against Welsh, and also accused him of violating the city charter. Mirabile wasn’t allowed to comment during the meeting either.
But in a recent e-mail to Welsh, the manager said, “it is my feeling that you are purposely creating a hostile work environment for me since I made the complaint against you.” Mirabile asked him to stop interfering in managing of the city.
Welsh, however, said it’s Mirabile who is hostile to him.
In a letter sent to commissioners last month, Mirabile said he was bringing up the issue “in an effort to protect the integrity of the purchasing process.”
The city is now in contract negotiations with Pompano Beach-based Di Pompeo Construction Corp. to design and build the community pool. The process is subject to Miami-Dade County purchasing guidelines. The county’s “Cone of Silence” rule prohibits commissioners from communicating with a potential vendor, service provider, bidder, lobbyist, or consultant until the city manager issues his recommendation.
Last month, Welsh sent a message to John Di Pompeo titled “Instructions to the Design Build Team.” The message included a sketch of pool plans.
“I was elected because I have the best interest of the residents of South Miami in mind. I want to get us a good deal, and I have years of experience in construction that could be put to good use,” Welsh said.
In an attempt to follow the rule, Welsh asked the city’s purchasing manager to print a list of all the businesses that he wasn’t allowed to contact.
City Attorney Thomas Pepe said that under South Miami’s current form of government, the City Commission appoints the city manager as chief executive officer. Commissioners are allowed to ask city staff for information, he said, but not give them orders.
In another e-mail to Welsh, Mirabile said, “your modus operandi appears to be consistent in that you are covertly and overtly making great efforts to direct staff and conduct business as a city manager.”
Pepe said that a dispute on a charter violation could end up in circuit court and would put the burden on the city to prove that the violation was “willful and intentional.”
Welsh’s lawyer, Benedict P. Kuehne, said it is unreasonable to expect a newly elected official without procedural experience to not make “unintentional” mistakes. Although the commissioner has been involved in politics for decades, this is the first time he is an elected official. He said he is learning as he goes.
Commissioner Valerie Newman appeared to have lost her patience.
“Commissioner Welsh has been warned many, many times that he is crossing the line, and he just doesn’t seem to get it,” Newman said before the meeting ended.
When asked to comment on Newman’s statement after the meeting, Welsh referenced a poem he wrote in 1977.
“I’m not a big deal,” Welsh recited. “Hey, I accept what’s real, I can’t stop the rain, but I can jam the wheel and derail the chain.”
Welsh said former city attorney Mark Goldstein was representing him on the Miami-Dade complaint. He could not comment on the pending case.