Miami Beach’s loss is Bal Harbour’s gain: Jorge Gonzalez
DEVELOPING STORY: Former Miami Beach city manager Jorge Gonzalez, who resigned after 12 years under pressure because he wouldn’t do the commission’s bidding, is back in government business: He was voted 4-1 to become the next city manager in the Village of Bal Harbour.
Yes, that is the city that had the police chief that at least one Miami Beach elected, Commissioner Ed Tobin, wanted Gonzalez to hire as the Beach Police chief last year. Gonzalez did not think he was the right guy for the job and was forced to leave, in part, because of that. A year later, Bal Harbour Chief Tom Hunker was fired for allegedly misspending millions in drug money seized from traffickers as found in a scathing U.S. Department of Justice report.
Ouch. Gonzalez, 1. Tobin, 0.
Maybe that was the clincher for the folks in Bal Harbour — the fact that Gonzalez knew more about Hunker than they did.
So it looks like the gray fox is not going to just sit on the beach sipping margaritas with his $440,000 “golden parachute” — which is really a severance package that was approved by commissioners if he were to be let go “without cause” (read: for political reasons).
“I’m 47 years old. I can’t retire,” Gonzalez told Ladra over a soda and French fries at Oliver’s this week.
“And this is what I do. Local government is what I do,” he said.
His salary is still to be negotiated — though it’s safe to say it will be a pay cut from his $231,000 gig at the Beach — and he doesn’t know exactly when he will start. But he can’t wait.
The Village of Bal Harbour
“Bal Harbour is a great place. It’s close to home and I think I can bring a lot of positive initiatives to that city,” Gonzalez added. “I’m looking forward to the new chapter, new beginning, new opportunity.”
Gonzalez is not completely gone from the Beach, of course. He still lives there and will likely become more active in time. He is already one of the campaign gimmicks used by millionaire mayoral candidate Philip Levine and his slate, who keep calling the separation a “golden parachute” and question Gonzalez’s ethics.
But Gonzalez was the one who took the investigation of corrupt code compliance officers to the State Attorney’s Office to begin with. Sure, they were crooked on his watch. But they were also caught on his watch.
Gonzalez quit rather than do whatever certain commissioners wanted — like hire Hunker, even though he thought he was not right for the job, or, say, recommend raising the tow rates in the city, which he refused to do and which were hiked up from $205 to $260 six months after he left. Oh, and guess who the lobbyist was on that one: our beloved David Custin, who is running Levine’s campaign and some say is trying to gain more influence on the Beach.
Well, the Bal Harbour village council must have recognized something that the majority of the Beach commission didn’t see — or maybe did, but didn’t like — to give him their top post, despite some apparent lobbying over the weekend by one of the commissioners that ousted him, who called Bal Harbour electeds to trash Gonzalez.
Developing story and new details coming as they are obtained.