West Miami-Dade

Sweetwater public works director caught in feud between his bosses

Sweetwater’s public works director, Alan Abolila, hung onto his job after a motion to dismiss him failed to pass the City Commission.
Sweetwater’s public works director, Alan Abolila, hung onto his job after a motion to dismiss him failed to pass the City Commission. South Florida News Service

Sweetwater’s public works director dodged an attempt by the city commission to fire him earlier this month, beating back claims that he allowed work on numerous internal city projects to begin without proper permits.

Alan Abolila argued that the city had no procedures in place for the projects in question, and that he is being used as a pawn in the ongoing feud between the commission and Mayor Orlando Lopez. The projects included an office renovation and sidewalk repairs.

“I don’t know of any policies or procedures that have been established by this board or this commission or anybody for that matter to pull permits,” he said in an interview following the June 6 meeting.

The motion to dismiss Abolila, brought by Commissioner Idania Llanio, failed 4-2. The commission, however, stated that Abolila will need to get permits for future work.

The vote comes days after Abolila was deposed in an ongoing lawsuit between the commissioners and Lopez.

Lopez sued the commission in January claiming the board improperly approved a budget submitted by his predecessor Jose Diaz that created a nearly $2 million budget deficit. The commission countersued, alleging Lopez has not followed the budget they approved.

The mayor said he is wary of the timeline, since Abolila gave his testimony in the case on June 2.

“I think it has something to do with the fact that he had his deposition in the pending litigation and it was used as an intimidation tactic from the commission,” said Lopez.

Abolila, during the meeting, also told the commission that the timing seemed suspicious.

“To hold me personally responsible because the commission and this mayor are in a tiff doesn’t seem fair. It seems kind of arbitrary,” he said. Abolila was not appointed by Lopez, but by Diaz.

But Llanio denies any plot. It’s simply not fair, she said, to tell residents they have to apply for a permit and gets inspections and not have the city comply with its own rules on its own projects.

“If we have done that in the past it has to stop,” she said. 

Natalie Sarracino is a reporter for the South Florida News Service at Florida International University.

An earlier version of this article included a remark incorrectly attributed to Lopez. That remark has been removed.

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