Miami may rehire former city manager as consultant on hotel-retail project
By Susan Stabley
Less than two months after he departed, Miami officials could enlist former city manager Carlos Gimenez as a consultant between the city and a huge private development on city land.
Today (3/27), commissioners are to consider hiring Mr. Gimenez - who left Jan. 28 for international law firm Steel Hector & Davis - as a go-between for the city and Flagstone Properties, building a $281 mixed-use Watson Island project.
The island's 86 acres off the MacArthur Causeway between Miami and Miami Beach face massive redevelopment. Flagstone has been approved to build two high-end hotels, shops, restaurants and a marina across 13.4 of the acres.
On Dec. 12, the City Commission agreed to execute a 45-year lease with Flagstone with options for two 15-year renewals. The agreement requires the city to retain a "point person," said City Attorney Alex Vilarello.
Mr. Gimenez was Miami's top administrator during the process that sought developers for the island and the lead negotiator on Flagstone's contract. He said Tuesday that he was also "very involved" with neighboring projects - the $11.7 million Watson Island Aviation & Visitors Center and the $25 million, 56,500-square-foot Miami Children's Museum.
The former fire chief served 32 months as city manager, overseeing a $500 million budget. He was pressured to leave by Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, with whom he worked with on the Flagstone negotiations and could soon team up with again if the consulting role is approved.
Mr. Gimenez on Feb. 15 became government operations and efficiency consultant for Steel Hector. According to the firm, he assists in corporate relocation, reorganization, expansion and government-incentive packages.
But the city-Flagstone consultancy would not fall under his work with Steel Hector, Mr. Gimenez said. He has created a personal business and will provide "qualified construction, development, fire and building consultation," according to documents.
Obstacles are already rising between the Watson Island plans.
Existing businesses are refusing to leave. And a charter school proposed for the Children's Museum may pose an obstacle to alcohol sales at Flagstone's restaurants and hotels because of a code prohibiting liquor sales near schools and churches.
"I'm going to try to resolve those conflicts for the city," Mr. Gimenez said Tuesday.
His schedule will be flexible, he said, and he will begin work on a number of state permitting issues and construction documents if the city approves his hiring.
Flagstone will fund all costs and expenses of hiring Mr. Gimenez plus an on-site workspace. The agreement with Carlos Gimenez and Associates can be for as much as $75,000, according to city documents, with no impact on Miami's budget.
Robert Meyers, executive director of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, said he couldn't comment directly but did cite the rehiring of a former employee in the county planning and zoning office as a consultant.
As far as the ethics commission is concerned, Mr. Meyers said, a former government worker can be hired as a consultant for the government but not for a third party. The restrictions bar a third party from paying a former government official from lobbying that government for two years, he said.
According to Mr. Vilarello, in this case, Flagstone will give money to the city for the consultant's fees and the city will pay for his work
First, the city commission must also waive a code that bars former employees from working for the city for two years after leaving. The code allows this prohibition to be waived. In order to hire Mr. Gimenez, the city must also waive a requirement to bid out the consulting job.