Miami-Dade County

Drama deepens in Miami City Hall after Joe Carollo fires staffer amid criminal inquiry

Steven Miro, one of Commissioner Joe Carollo's former staffers, was fired Monday.  He faces allegations of misconduct at City Hall.
Steven Miro, one of Commissioner Joe Carollo's former staffers, was fired Monday. He faces allegations of misconduct at City Hall. Facebook

The melodrama at Miami City Hall is getting ugly.

Commissioner Joe Carollo's newly fired aide is facing allegations of harassment and misconduct within City Hall — a new development a day after controversy spilled out of Carollo's office amid a criminal investigation into a city-funded paella lunch for seniors that may have doubled as a campaign event for former county commission candidate Alex Diaz de la Portilla.

According to interviews with City Hall staffers and records obtained by the Miami Herald, the former staffer, Steven Miro, was accused of making a sexually inappropriate comment to a female colleague, highjacking Carollo's city email to authorize a $1,500 raise for himself and repeatedly making phone calls for outside political work on the city's time.

"This is behavior that cannot be corrected," said Richard Blom, a former Doral police chief who was recently hired as Carollo's chief of staff. Blom said he pushed to fire Miro after the aide made multiple women uncomfortable around the office, creating what Blom called "an atmosphere of gender-based hostility." Blom made the final decision to fire him Monday.

Former Miami mayor Joe Carollo accused his political opponents of mail fraud Tuesday, capping an ugly month of mud-slinging in the race for the city’s District 3 commission seat.

That atmosphere allegedly spread into Commissioner Ken Russell's office in February. Miro was accused of making inappropriate remarks to one of Russell's staffers, which Russell confirmed Thursday in a statement to the Herald.

"Learning of Mr. Miro's firing was no surprise except that we had expected it sooner and for other reasons," he said. "He was no longer welcome in our office after making lewd comments to my staff. I called human resources to let them know of the concern."

Russell cited the privacy of his staff when he declined to go into specifics. It's unclear what action human resources took, but the department hastily called all city commissioners and their staffers into mandatory diversity and sexual harassment training sessions on Wednesday — months after the complaint and two days after Miro was fired. Other sources told the Herald that Miro faced allegations that he had harassed women at City Hall.

Blom said Miro had a habit of violating people's personal space and aggressively questioning women who work in Carollo's office about what they were doing, who they were calling and what they were looking at on their computers. One of those women, Blom said, was planning to quit because she was tired of Miro's behavior.

Then there was the question of whether Miro tried to approve a raise for himself.

Hired in December after working on Carollo's campaign, Miro was the commissioner's first staffer. And for a time, he was the only one. Carollo had held off on hiring more employees while he awaited the outcome of a legal challenge to his election — a challenge he would later win in trial and on appeal.

Blom said in February Miro sent an email from Carollo's account authorizing a $1,500 salary increase. Emails in Miro's personnel file, obtained through a public records request, show some back-and-forth between human resources staffers regarding the raise. At one point, an employee relations staffer wrote he had to manually deliver a "personnel action form," required to approve a raise, to Carollo's office because "Steven Miro cannot approve his own PAF."

City spokesman Eugene Ramirez said the human resources department had no comment on the incident, directing inquiries to Carollo's office.

Blom said Miro was verbally reprimanded afterward.

Miro was accused of political shenanigans as well. On Thursday, Carollo said Miro repeatedly took phone calls from Zoraida Barreiro's county commission campaign while he was on city time. They were the same kind of accusations someone had made against Carollo for the paella lunches he sponsored at several senior citizen centers — paid for with city money — where Diaz de la Portilla campaigned for the same post as Barreiro.

"The only person who worked in my office and used city time to work on the political campaign of another is Mr. Miro," Carollo said.

Barreiro said she recalled seeing Miro walk neighborhoods knocking on doors for her campaign only once. That was on a Saturday early on, in late April — when she says she was under the impression Carollo was backing her. As for the phone calls, she said she had no knowledge of them.

"I don't even think I have Miro's number," she said.

Miro's attorney, Matthew Sarelson, dismissed all of the allegations while declining to go into details because they plan to sue. Sarelson, who has faced Carollo in court before, said Miro would not "play this out in the media."

"There is absolutely no merit to any of these allegations," Sarelson said. "These appear to be arguments being contrived by Commissioner Carollo at the proverbial 11th hour and after he illegally terminated my client in an effort to save face with the public."

If Miro did have behavioral issues at work, it wouldn't be the first time.

Between 2008 and 2009, Miro spent seven months working for Key Biscayne police. In that short time, he drew complaints from multiple colleagues about his behavior and was reprimanded for falling asleep while on duty three times, according to his personnel records.

In a memo filed two days before Miro resigned from the department, a female dispatcher complained that Miro displayed "disrespectful behavior," made her feel uncomfortable and created a "hostile work place" because of his attitude.