Miami-Dade County

Divided Miami-Dade transportation board picks new director

Miami-Dade’s transportation board on Thursday picked one state administrator over another in a prickly and protracted debate over who should get the $220,000-a-year director’s job.

In a 10-10 vote, the Metropolitan Planning Organization deadlocked over hiring Chairman Jean Monestime’s choice of Harold Desdunes, an administrator in the state’s regional transportation office. With Desdunes blocked, the board then turned to another finalist, Aileen Bouclé, who reports to Desdunes at the state office. Bouclé holds the title of intermodal systems development administrator.

“I wish this candidate well,” Monestime said of Bouclé before casting the lone vote against her hire. “It’s going to be a tough challenge.”

Bouclé’s selection as the MPO’s next director capped a heated debate on a 23-member board charged with prioritizing federal dollars available for county transportation.

A board lawyer said members had already agreed to have Monestime recommend his pick from three finalists selected by a search committee, but former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferré, who represents a local toll authority on the MPO, attempted to put all three up for a vote. Barbara Jordan, a county commissioner, used a parliamentary rule to block Ferré’s motion, since it was not filed within the required four-day window before a meeting.

Until we get it together, it doesn’t matter who you put in that executive director position.

Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert

“If we’re going to change the rules now,” Jordan said, “I’m going to leave.”

All 13 county commissioners get seats on the MPO, which is also made up of representatives from large cities, the school board and other entities. Critics have called it too large to make decisions, and Thursday’s chaotic discussion added more fodder to the complaint.

“Until we get it together,” said Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, “it doesn’t matter who you put in that executive director position.”

Bouclé was seen as having support from Miami-Dade’s new transit chief, Alice Bravo. Jordan said during the meeting that the “new director” was lobbying for Bouclé; Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez hired Bravo for Transit in June, and promoted her to head up all transportation functions earlier this month. Bravo wasn’t available for comment.

After the meeting, Bouclé, who lives in Kendall, said of her new job: “I’m up for the challenge. Everyone is very passionate about transportation, and for good reason.”

The only MPO member who gave a detailed reason to pick Bouclé over Desdune was Esteban “Steve” Bovo, a county commissioner. He said he wanted a “strong personality” for the next director. Monestime said Desdune, an engineer, had the expertise managing state transportation projects that made him “uniquely” qualified for the job. Bouclé reports to Desdune at the state Transportation Department’s District Six office. Desdune, who did not attend the meeting, is director of transportation development.

Francis Suarez, a Miami commissioner, joined Monestime in voting for Desdune. Later, he told Bouclé: “I’m actually glad things turned out the way they did today. . . . So you know what you’re stepping into.”