The chief spokesman for the city of Miami lost his job last month but didn’t lose his paycheck when he was relieved of his $86,000 post only to be transferred to a new position under the mayor with the same pay and benefits.
But on Friday, Angel Zayón was fired — actually fired — and told to return a laundry list of missing items, including an iPad mini, an HP mobile printer, and a shredder. Zayón’s last day is Jan. 2.
“You must return these items or submit a written explanation as to the location of the items … in order to receive your final paycheck,” City Manager Daniel Alfonso wrote in a memo.
Zayón said in a statement late Friday that his firing is part of a “defamation campaign,” and hinted at plans to file a lawsuit. The former television journalist and radio announcer served as Miami’s director of communications for five years, starting shortly after Tomás Regalado was elected as mayor. Regalado once referred to Zayón as a “fourth son.’’
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But Zayón’s time with the city grew troubled this year. Two employees spoke out and accused him of being a tyrant. They filed hostile workplace complaints with Miami’s Division of Equal Opportunity/Diversity Programs. Administrator Angela Roberts penned a memo in October saying interviews with Zayón’s employees showed he has a temper problem, and bullies and demeans his employees.
“It is important to note that all witnesses were extremely nervous and feared being retaliated against by Mr. Zayón,” Roberts wrote.
On Nov. 20, Alfonso told Zayón he would no longer be the city’s chief spokesman — a job that paid him $109,000 in salary and benefits in 2014 — and was reassigned as Regalado’s chief of International Affairs and Protocol. But that job wouldn’t last either.
Alfonso said in an interview Friday that after Zayón’s transfer, he learned the city’s former spokesman had “circumvented” the city’s purchasing rules in order to quietly purchase $12,500 in equipment he’d been told was unnecessary. Regalado said Friday that Alfonso hasn’t alleged anything criminal with Zayón. He acknowledged that he’s close with the former spokesman, but said it’s Alfonso’s call to fire him.
“He was doing good at the Mayor's International Council,” Regalado said of Zayón. “But what I can't do is just tell [Alfonso] to forget about things that he says were in violation of city code.”
Zayón, whose problems were first reported by blogger Al Crespo, was replaced as chief spokesman by Mario Riquelme. In a statement, he said he is the victim of a smear campaign “plagued with false accusations, created with the intention of destroying my reputation and defaming my character.”
“I anxiously await for the moment in which I can explain what is behind all of this,” he said, “which I will do in the courthouse.”