Coral Gables

Coral Gables swears in new city manager; FBI report shows no fudging of crime stats

Judge Thomas Logue of the Third District Court of Appeal in Florida on Tuesday swears in Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark as Coral Gables city manager
Judge Thomas Logue of the Third District Court of Appeal in Florida on Tuesday swears in Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark as Coral Gables city manager Monique O. Madan

Coral Gables commissioners on Tuesday held their last meeting of the year, where they swore in their long-awaited city manager, discussed an FBI audit done on the Gables police department and came to a final agreement on an ongoing battle between residents and developers over a historic oak tree.

▪ Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark was officially sworn in as the city's new city manager, after a lengthy search to fill the job. Carmen Olazabal, who served as interim city manager, received a special proclamation. In honor of her eight months as interim manager, Mayor Jim Cason declared Dec. 17 as “Carmen Olazabal Day” in Coral Gables.

▪ Police Chief Ed Hudak revealed findings of an FBI police department audit, which came after crime statistics were released in September. At that time, residents and commissioners accused the then-police chief of manipulating residential burglary statistics. An audit of the time period in question, January through August 2013 and 2014, showed that “the findings did not reveal any under-reported burglary offenses,” Jennifer Cook Pritt, director of Division of Criminal Justice Information Services at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, wrote in the report.

The department made 121 errors out of 5,958 incidents, placing the “agency error rate” at 4.55 percent, Pritt said. Hudak and FBI officials called the error rate “outstanding.”

▪ The Commission reviewed the finalized settlement agreement regarding the Oak tree on Lisbon Street. It was approved. The historic tree will remain untouched as developers build around it and abide by several rules.

▪ Commissioners discussed the outcome of a meeting they attended regarding the ongoing issue of Controlled Choice. School Board representatives agreed to talk to community members and residents starting in January in hopes of finding a solution or come to a compromise.

▪  The commission passed a mixed-use plan for an eight-story, 55,178 square-foot building at 4311 Ponce de Leon Blvd. The vote was 3-1, with Commissioner Vince Lago dissenting.

Of that square footage, 11,457 square feet will be reserved for retail on the ground floor; 24,133 square feet of commercial office space on the fifth and sixth floors; and eight two-story, two bedroom residential units on the seventh and eighth floors. There will be 145 parking spaces proposed on three garage levels above the ground floor, including eight mechanical lifts. A total of 144 parking spaces are required. The project still needs to approved by the city’s Board of Architects.

The first 2015 meeting will take place at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 13, at Coral Gables City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way.

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Access the full agenda and item materials here.

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