Carmen Olazabal wants you to forget that she’s an unethical opportunist who put her career above the very safety and lives of Coral Gables residents.
As Olazabal, a former interim city manager, runs for a city commission seat, she wants you to forget that she doctored documents and focus on her gender and her degrees from MIT and Harvard University and her relationship with Jim and Carmen Cason and the fact that once upon a time the city declared it Carmen Olazabal Day.
That must mean something, right? Wrong. We all know those giveaway proclamations aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.
But that’s all she’s got. And of course Olazabal wants to rewrite history. We don’t blame her. Because the real version isn’t very flattering. This is a woman who, as assistant city manager, helped cover up a landscaping mistake that caused a jump in car accidents along Ponce de Leon Boulevard in 2014. The woman who wrote the lie — or, rather, cut and paste the lie — that got former City Manager Pat Salerno fired.
This is why Commissioner Vince Lago was surprised that Olazabal — who was forced to leave the city’s employ — would run for office. He told her when she asked to meet with him that he couldn’t support her.
“She was too willing to risk the public safety of our citizens to make Mr. Salerno happy and keep her job,” Lago said, adding that public safety was the commission’s No. 1 responsibility.
If readers will remember this is sort of when the whole split between the administration and Police Chief Ed Hudak started. Because Hudak told the truth and then-manager Salerno lied and obstructed the truth for whatever reason, we still don’t know to this day. Arrogance, maybe?
There were Bismarck palm trees on Ponce de Leon from Salamanca to Alcazar avenues that were interfering with southbound drivers’ line of sight. Hudak produced a multi-page report with graphs and figures that indicated a 170% increase in car accidents at that corner. The commission got a one-page report with no such finding, no graphs, after a cut and paste job by Olazabal, at Salerno’s instructions.
“She showed a lack of ethics and a lack of judgement. A person who is willing to mislead the commission should not be making the laws if she is breaking the laws,” Lago said, adding that Olazabal confessed her role to him and former City Attorney Craig Leen after the Salerno resigned over the doctored document.
It was an exceptionally bad choice for her to help orchestrate the lie because Olazabal knew she’d have whistleblower protection had she told the truth, he added.
Lago, who is arguably the only real elected leader on the Gables dais, is supporting Cabrera. He, like many people, said he has no idea who this Jorge Fors guy is or where he came from and knows that Cabrera’s experience will give the Gables some historic perspective and balance.
“He’s an individual who understands the character of the city and who has a deep interest in making our city the best in Miami-Dade,” Lago said. “He believes in pushing forward on development that allows our city to progress but also keep its hometown feel.”
But, then again, Lago would support anyone against Olazabal. Because her missteps do not end with the Ponce trees lie.
There was the time she tried to give herself a 10 percent raise. Oh, she will say that she didn’t, but she did. And it was a consent item, in fact. Thank goodness that Lago pulled the resolution from the agenda in May of 2014 and discussed it. Consent items hardly get discussed and are approved en masse. Olazabal tried to fly under the radar and give herself a 10 percent raise.
By the way, she did get that raise. And then she tried to keep it after a permanent manager was hired.
The resolution, which was likely written by Olazabal, said she deserved the raise because “during her four month tenure as Interim City Manager, Carmen Olazabal has worked effectively on complex projects such as: Tree Succession plan, Bike Master Plan, RFP preparation for Garage 1 and 4, Teamster Union Contract, FOP Union Contract, Trolley Building Settlement and Miracle Mile Streetscape Project.”
Wait. Is she taking credit for these projects that existed before and after her? Wasn’t she just doing her job? For which she was already being paid 4% more (a parting gift from Salerno)?
And was she even really doing her job? Or was someone else? Because she also had municipal manager extraordinaire Merrett Stierheim holding her hand. He was hired as a back-up consultant since the city commission had no confidence Olazabal could do it alone. How much of her job did Stierheim do? Well, e was approved for $50,000 worth of work. So at $150 an hour, that’s more than 333 hours, which is more than eight weeks if he was working full time.
No wonder he’s backing her.
And that’s a lot of help. Can anyone imagine if City Manager Peter Iglesias needed hand holding?
But even the almighty Stierheim couldn’t steer Olazabal away from every bad decision.
Like that time Olazabal named Maj. Theresa Molina acting chief, to everyone’s surprise, the eve before the commission was to name an interim chief. Molina, who was later caught spying on a resident and commissioners and was fired for it, was under investigation by the State Attorney’s Office at the time. Again, shows a lack of judgement if this is who Olazabal thought was better than Ed Hudak to run the department.
In fact, she also thought retired Maj. Scott Massington was better than Hudak and, after telling commissioners she would let them decide at a special meeting after the former chief resigned, she flew Massington back to Miami. Word on the street was that Salerno was pushing for Massington and Olazabal was still doing his bidding.
Of course, today as part of her history rewrite, she supports Hudak and congratulates his leadership on her website, saying he has kept crime low.
Because if there is one thing voters need to remember about Olazabal it’s she will do or say anything to keep her job — or to get one. The city commission position pays $31,585. But Ladra bets Olazabal would move for a 10% raise.