Miami Shores Councilman Jim McCoy has asked the village’s Chamber of Commerce to fire their executive director, the village’s Vice Mayor Jesse Walters.
In an email dated April 15, nearly a week after the April 9 Village Council election, McCoy addressed the chamber’s board members and suggested that Walters’ rhetoric during and after the election made him unsuited to his paid position with the chamber.
The offenses McCoy listed include quotes Walters made to The Miami Herald immediately following the April 9 election.
During the campaign, Walters ran as a part of a three-person coalition including Ivonne Ledesma and Jonas Georges. Had all three won the election, Walters’ “progressive” council members would have held a majority of the five seats.
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The three open council seats went to Herta Holly, Walters, and Ledesma in order of votes received. While Walters and Ledesma won seats on the council, they expressed disappointment that Georges didn’t win. They said that they doubted their ability to do meaningful work on the council during this term.
In an April 14 article about the election results, Walters told the newspaper: “I don’t think without the third vote we’re going to be able to accomplish much, frankly,” and “I believe that they will vote as a block to maintain the status quo at any cost. This will mean a continuation of virtually all-white governmental appointments, an anti-business stance to any new initiatives that may be proposed, and a deaf ear to any hope for a new Community Center.”
McCoy said in his letter that those comments were “highly inaccurate and inflammatory.” He went on to say that whoever is the Chamber of Commerce’s executive director “has the responsibility of conducting himself with a heightened sense of tact and sensitivity” and that Walters did not do so.
At the April 16 Village Council meeting, the three new council members were sworn in. During that event Walters spoke briefly and apologized for his comments to The Herald. He said he was upset and tired when he made his remarks both in person and via email in the days immediately following the election.
This public apology echoed one made earlier that day to the chamber’s board if directors. The board members met informally following a regularly scheduled meeting. The chamber’s acting president, Lance Harke, said, “it was in that context that Jesse did say that his comments in The Miami Herald were intemperate.”
Harke said, “we have heard from members of the community and many board members” about Walters’ remarks. The chamber is evaluating all of these comments and McCoy’s letter. “We’re not going to move precipitously. We’re trying to take a long hard look and see where we come out.”
There is no rule stopping a chamber’s executive director from holding political office. McCoy suggested, however, that the Chamber should institute a policy that the “executive director should hold no political office or be engaged in any political process in Miami Shores” beyond what the position calls for.
Harke said, “there is no per se conflict between a Chamber executive holding political office.” He added that “the question is whether in practicality” there are specific issues that may come up that put the roles in conflict.
McCoy, outside of his position as council member, is the managing director of KW Commercial – Miami. The company, a commercial real estate brokerage, is a member of the chamber. In his letter, McCoy said that if the Chamber Board did not take “appropriate action” he would cease his involvement with the organization.
Harke said that McCoy is “a highly respected member of the community” and “I take his words very seriously.” However, Harke said, “we’re acting very prudently. We’re trying to be as careful and cautious as we can be.” This is for out of respect for Walters as well as chamber members concerned about his comments.
The next Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee meeting will be held May 14 at 4:30 p.m. at the chamber offices, 9701 NE Second Ave. The Board of Directors will meet on May 21 at 4:30 p.m. at Doctors Charter School, 11301 NW Fifth Ave.
The next village council meeting will be May 7 at 7 p.m. at Village Hall, 10050 NE Second Ave.