Downtown Miami

Miami commissioner won’t say if he wants Bayfront Park job

During his waning time as a Miami city commissioner, Frank Carollo has taken great pride in his work as the chairman of the public agency that runs Bayfront Park, where presidential hopefuls come to speak to the masses and music lovers flock for downtown music festivals.

He brought Pitbull to party on New Year’s Eve. And at Museum Park, which he also oversees, he worked to bring in a German playground equipment manufacturer on a no-bid $2 million contract.

Now that he’s leaving office in a few weeks, he’s pushing to leave the Bayfront Park Management Trust in good hands by increasing ticket surcharges and hiking salaries and benefits for the semi-autonomous city agency’s employees. When asked why he wanted to hike pay to $148,000 and boost retirement benefits for the executive director — a job recently resigned by the park’s longtime administrator — Carollo said he wanted to expand the talent pool.

But here’s what he won’t say: if he wants to dip his own toes in the water.

I won’t even dignify that question with an answer

Commissioner Frank Carollo, on whether he wants to be Bayfront’s executive director

Carollo, a certified public accountant by trade, has repeatedly declined to answer questions about whether he’s interested in jumping into the executive director’s position when he leaves office. In August, when Carollo pushed through pay raises, a skeptical member of the trust’s volunteer board asked him twice to say whether he wants the job for himself.

“I think that question is off-base and I’ll be honest with you, I won’t even dignify that question with an answer,” Carollo said.

This week, Ralph Duharte, the board member with whom Carollo shared the exchange, noted during a subsequent board meeting that the back-and-forth was left out of the public record of the Aug. 29 meeting deliberations.

To be sure, Carollo has always been coy about his business. He rarely makes his positions public before voting and demurred about running for mayor against Commissioner Francis Suarez for more than a year before officially bowing out 10 minutes before the deadline to qualify.

But his caginess about Bayfront Park is drawing extra attention due to his hands-on treatment of the trust, currently run by an interim director, and the fact that he appointed half of the volunteer board that would be asked to endorse his hiring. By law, a sitting board member cannot become director of the trust, which is overseen by the City Commission but operates without any financial assistance. His current position on the board is tied to his job as a city commissioner, and the election to name his successor on the City Commission is Nov. 7.

This week, Stephen Kneapler, a former trust board member and confidant of Mayor Tomás Regalado, wrote an open letter to Carollo and the city’s other commissioners pressuring Carollo to say publicly whether he wants the job. Kneapler, who was seen last week meeting with former trust executive director Timothy Schmand at a Starbucks in Coconut Grove, said the former park administrator helped him draft a list of qualifications that an executive director should hold.

He sent that document along with his letter to Carollo.

“There is no doubt that Mr. Carollo has been and is now maneuvering to give himself the job as executive director of the trust,” wrote Kneapler, who has helped craft his fair share of agreements and compacts behind the scenes at Miami City Hall.

Carollo, though, was not swayed. Asked Thursday whether he was interested in the job, he responded by text message, saying the question was similar to the speculation about whether he’d run for mayor.

“The only commitment that I have made thus far is to continue as a certified public accountant with the firm that I have been with for 15 years. (Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra, LLC),” he wrote.

Were Carollo to get the Bayfront board’s endorsement for the executive director’s job, he’d also need Miami’s other commissioners to approve of his hiring.