Plundering a small town
No city goes through managers like Opa-locka does.
In a tight 3-2 vote Tuesday, the commission fired acting City Manager Newall Daughtrey — without telling him why — making him the sixth chief administrator to be terminated, resign or go to prison during the past three years.
Daughtrey, who took over the helm of Opa-locka’s financially strapped government in April, said he was fired because he ordered the city to put liens on dozens of properties that owe more than $10,000 each in bills for water, sewer or trash services or in code enforcement violations.
Among the total $1.8 million in delinquent accounts: Mayor Myra Taylor, former owner of the Vankara School, which owes the city more than $100,000 in water and sewer bills. Taylor, joined by commissioners John Riley and Timothy Holmes, led the charge to fire Daughtrey.
“I guess that was the reason for her firing me,” said Daughtrey, who made an annual salary of $112,500 as the interim manager. “All I was trying to do was collect the money. I guess I should have known better.”
Taylor did not respond to requests for comment.
The vote to terminate Daughtrey during a special commission meeting may not be all that remarkable in this minority community in north-central Miami-Dade County. The city has been investigated by the FBI over the past five years and monitored by a state financial oversight board for the last two years.
But this is notable: Daughtrey, who tried to shepherd a new fiscal budget through the commission last week, was fired a month before the November municipal election. Taylor and Holmes cannot run again because of term limits, while Riley is seeking the mayor’s position.
Also striking: Taylor, Riley and Holmes voted Tuesday to bring back Yvette Harrell, an attorney who resigned as city manager in 2017, to run Opa-locka’s government again. Harrell was first hired as manager in 2016, replacing David Chiverton, who pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy charge and was sent to prison.
Riley said he was disappointed in Daughtrey’s inability to complete financial audits of prior fiscal years to satisfy the demands of the state oversight board. As a result, he said, the state was holding back potentially millions of dollars that could be available to Opa-locka. Riley also criticized Daughtrey’s new budget, saying it was “flawed.”“
“When you can’t relate to people and we’re continuing losing money that we should have, I felt I had no alternative,” Riley said, citing his reason for firing Daughtrey.
Riley led the first effort to fire the manager in August, but he only had support from Taylor, not Holmes. This time, the threesome voted together.
Vice Mayor Joseph Kelley and Commissioner Matthew Pigatt voted against terminating Daughtrey, who had previously served as Opa-locka’s manager in 2000-2002.
“These are the types of decisions that keep us from moving forward as a city,” said Pigatt, who is leaving his commission seat to run for mayor in November.
“We have millions of dollars on the line with the state, and decisions like these do not show them that we are being fiscally responsible,” he added.
Audrey Dominguez, who attended Tuesday’s commission meeting on the manager’s job, said his firing made no sense.
“There was no reasoning as to why he was being fired,” said Dominguez, who is running for a commission seat in November. “They just said he wasn’t doing a good job.”
Daughtrey had replaced City Manager Ed Brown in April, when Brown got the ax for refusing to revoke the occupational license of Klub 24, an all-hours nudie lounge that opened in January after mistakenly obtaining zoning and other permits.
“I took this job because I love this city,” said Daughtrey, a longtime resident.