Joe Carollo settles with Doral; comes back as city manager for half a day

Joe Carollo reinstated in Doral government, promptly resigns

Former City Manager Joe Carollo resigns after being reinstated on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 at the City of Doral Government Center.
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Former City Manager Joe Carollo resigns after being reinstated on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 at the City of Doral Government Center.

Former Doral City Manager Joe Carollo returned to his post as top administrator Wednesday, only to resign a few hours later.

The ousted city manager was reinstated in his former job Wednesday morning, then handed in a resignation letter in the afternoon. The move was part of a settlement agreement under which he was given his job back for a day on the condition that he would resign. He will also be paid $50,000.

“The fact that they reinstated me for a day; the fact that they accepted a retroactive letter of resignation when three of the council members conspired to fire me, says it all,” Carollo, the former mayor of Miami once known as “Crazy Joe,” told the Miami Herald. “No city would do that unless they knew they lost. This is what I wanted and this is what I got.”

Carollo, 61, was fired in 2014 by the Doral City Council, after he had held the job 15 months. He said he was terminated in retaliation for reporting corruption and campaign finance violations by former mayor Luigi Boria and two council members, Sandra Ruiz and Christine Fraga.

He later filed a lawsuit against the three, claiming that his termination violated his First Amendment free speech rights and Florida whistle blower laws.

With about a dozen cameras rolling, Carollo strolled into City Hall Wednesday afternoon with his wife to hand in a resignation letter dated April 28, 2014. It will be recorded and placed in his personnel file.

“This proves I was not fired, but that I resigned,” Carollo said. His letter was stamped, copied and filed at the city clerks office after Carollo spoke with various media outlets.

The city of Doral would not comment on the specifics of the settlement or whether Carollo could have made administrative decisions during his brief reinstatement (he didn’t).

Maggie Santos, city spokeswoman, provided a written statement: “The settlement documents speak for themselves. The City is pleased that this dispute has been resolved and we can continue to move forward with city business, always working in the best interest of the Doral community.”

Late last year, U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro ruled that, in regard to the First Amendment violations, Carollo was acting not as a public employee, but rather as a private citizen, and allowed the case to move forward.

Boria, Fraga and Ruiz all appealed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ultimately ruled in favor of Carollo, allowing the case to proceed at the trial court level.

“The appellate court ruled in favor of protecting public employees’ First Amendment rights when reporting information and corruption as whistle blowers; I believe that sets a precedent,” said Carollo’s attorney, Diana Fitzgerald. “It wasn’t about the money for Joe, it was about the principle.”

According to the settlement agreement, Carollo will be paid $50,000 — only a small chunk of what he would have sought if the trial had proceeded, he said. Carollo’s annual base salary was about $150,000; his compensation package was about $250,000 including benefits.

If the parties hadn’t settled, the trial would have taken place late this year or early next year.

“This is all behind me,” Carollo said. “I’ve moved on to the city of Miami and what I’m doing here is putting an end to this chapter in the right way.”

He is currently running for the District 3 commission seat in the city of Miami, currently held by his brother. Elections take place in November.

According to court records, Carollo reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, ethics investigators and local law enforcement that Ruiz helped Boria violate state campaign finance mandates and that Fraga aided Boria in breaking financial disclosure laws.

Two of the three are no longer on the City Council; Fraga is the only one who remains.

There was no ruling on whether the violations occurred. They were only a factor in Carollo’s argument that he was improperly terminated.

“Everything is dropped. It was part of the settlement; we all agreed to drop anything against each other,” Carollo said.

Boria, who lost his campaign for reelection in November, said in a text message that he considers the settlement to be “beneficial to the City of Doral and its citizens as it closes a chapter and allows for a positive growth.”

Fraga and Ruiz did not immediately respond to the Miami Herald.

Carollo was first elected to the Miami City Commission in 1979, when he was 24. He later served served two terms as mayor in the ’90s. The politician lost his 2001 reelection bid and disappeared from the spotlight for more than a decade before popping back up as city manager in Doral in 2013.

Monique O. Madan: 305-376-2108, @MoniqueOMadan