Late Entry

Miami Beach’s Search for a City Manager Gets Shaken Up as Native Son Jimmy Morales Vies For the Job

Former Miami-Dade Commissioner and one-time county mayoral candidate Jimmy Morales wants to be Miami Beach’s next city manager, offering himself as a surprise late entry into the ongoing search to find and hire the city’s next top administrator.

In a Nov. 8 letter to the City Commission, Morales pitched himself as a native son of the city who would be able to take over on Day One without having to overcome a “learning curve.”

Morales, 50, was a District 7 county commissioner from 1996 to 2004 before launching an unsuccessful bid for county mayor. He lost, in November 2004, to Carlos Alvarez, 51% to 41%.

He is currently the city attorney of Doral.

CITY AT A “CRITICAL JUNCTURE”

“I do not need to tell you that the city is at a critical juncture in its history,” Morales wrote to commissioners. “It faces significant infrastructure challenges and is considering major developments that will impact not only our community but the region’s economy for years to come.”

He addressed Miami Beach’s recent corruption scandals:

“Serious questions have been raised about the city’s ability…to provide basic government services honestly and effectively.”

The city, he continued, must again “demonstrate and reassert its commitment to ethics, integrity and accountability in government and the effective and transparent administration of government services.”

“I believe I can discharge those responsibilities as your city manager, vigorously, beginning on the day of appointment, with very little ‘learning curve’ to overcome,” wrote Morales.

COMMISSIONERS UNSATISFIED WITH SEARCH

Morales submits his candidacy for the city’s top job in the midst of a nationwide search conducted by a headhunter firm contracted by the city.

On Oct. 24, Tallahassee-based Bob Murray & Associates submitted to the Commission the resumes of 60 applicants from all around the country, winnowing the list of prospective candidates to four.

Several commissioners, however, were unsatisfied with the firm’s progress. Ed Tobin wanted, and received permission from his colleagues, to contact other search firms on his own in an effort to dredge up more candidates.

Commissioners extended the search until Dec. 1, two weeks before their regular December Commission meeting at which time they are slated to next consider the matter.

HARVARD LAW GRAD

Morales graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School in 1980 and then went on to attend Harvard, graduating from its law school, magna cum laude, in 1987.

After a period in which he was a practicing attorney for law firms based in Miami, New York, and Washington, D.C., he was elected a Miami-Dade county commissioner, representing Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, Pinecrest, South Miami, and portions of Miami.

While on the Commission, he chaired its budget and finance committee and the mayor’s task force on efficiency and competition, and served as the county’s liaison to Miami’s Downtown Development Authority.

Morales was chief special master for Miami Beach from 2005 to 2007 before leaving to serve as city attorney for Marathon, Fla., for three years. In 2009 he assumed the Doral post.

He is a past chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party and serves on the board of trustees of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, among other civic affiliations.

He and his wife of 22 years, Dori, are the parents of a son and daughter.

A “HANDS-ON” CITY MANAGER

“I am confident I am up to the task even though mine is not the traditional or customary route” to a city managership, Morales wrote in his letter. “I haven’t spent my professional career as a government administrator and I’m not a lifelong government employee.”

“Yet I have faced virtually all of the challenges confronting the city,” he added, citing his experience on the County Commission, with the budget, with infrastructure projects, with collective bargaining, and with community boards.

Addressing the concerns of a City Hall and a public beleaguered by numerous arrests and scandals this year involving city employees, Morales assured Beach commissioners that he understands “the frustration and cynicism that many feel” and is “motivated to restore faith and confidence” in City Hall.

“In 20 years of practice and service in our community, I have maintained a reputation for ethics, integrity, perseverance, transparency and commitment to reform, which I will bring to this task.”

Attesting to his experience in having hired, fired, and managed personnel, he vowed to motivate city employee performance “by leading through example, demanding accountability, and disciplining when necessary.”

“I will be a hands-on city manager and will always accept responsibility for performance of our city departments at all levels,” Morales stated.

“I’VE EXPERIENCED THE FRUSTRATION A COMMISSIONER FEELS”

Without mentioning such re-development projects as the Miami Beach Convention Center or Lincoln Lane by name, Morales noted his familiarity with building, permitting, code enforcement, and procurement issues.

In a nod to the city’s recent financial wrangling with its employee unions, Morales remarked, “I have negotiated union contracts [and] grappled with significant budgets.”

One complaint that some city commissioners, notably Tobin and Jonah Wolfson, had with the former Jorge Gonzalez administration was what they claimed was their difficulty in getting information from the ex-city manager. Morales reassured them that he would be a different manager.

 “I’ve experienced the frustration a commissioner feels when he doesn’t get the information he needs when he needs it, and when the administration sidesteps or undermines policies set by the Commission.”

“I dedicated myself long ago to public service,” Morales concluded his letter. Now he asks for the chance “to continue that commitment by returning to my home town” and providing leadership “at this critical point.”

GOVERNOR IN 2014?

Morales told the Tampa Bay Times in July that he had been talking to Democrats across the state about the possibility of running for governor in 2014, suggesting that he could capitalize on the ever-changing political playbook for winning a statewide campaign.

“We’ve got to put some new faces out there, and we’ve got to reach out to new constituencies,” Morales, who is half Puerto Rican and half Cuban, told the Times. The paper’s political editor, Adam C. Smith, reported at the time that while no decision was expected soon, Morales said he was “leaning very heavily in the direction of making this move.”

Morales: City Must “Reassert Its Commitment to Ethics, Integrity, Accountability”

Below is Jimmy Morales’s Nov. 8 letter to the Miami Beach mayor and Commission seeking to be considered for the city’s next manager.

 Dear Mayor and Commissioners:

I hereby submit my name for your consideration as the next City Manager of the City of Miami Beach. I am simultaneously submitting my credentials to the executive search firm that the City retained, but I thought it important, given the timing, to contact you directly as well.

I do not need to tell you that the City is at a critical juncture in its history. It faces significant infrastructure challenges and is considering major developments that will impact not only our community but the region’s economy for years to come. Yet, serious questions have been raised about the City’s ability to accomplish these tasks and to provide basic government services honestly and effectively.

I think you will agree how important it is at this time for the City of Miami Beach to demonstrate and reassert its commitment to ethics, integrity and accountability in government and the effective and transparent administration of government services. I believe I can discharge those responsibilities as your city manager, vigorously, beginning on the day of appointment, with very little “learning curve” to overcome. I am a native son of the City of Miami Beach and a product of its public schools. Following law school I clerked in 1988 for a federal district court judge in Miami, practiced law in Washington, D.C. 1989-1991, and in New York City 199l-1993, and then, full of energy, returned to home base, plunging into activism and government while practicing law and raising a family. I am reenergized by the current challenge and ready to plunge in again.

I am confident I am up to the task even though mine is not the traditional or customary route to such an appointment. I haven’t spent my professional career as a government administrator and I’m not a lifelong government employee. Yet I have faced virtually all of the challenges confronting the City from positions of responsibility across the entire range of government operations, including responsibilities as an elected official (county commissioner), budgetary chair, major public infrastructure projects, city attorney, special counsel for collective bargaining, corporate counsel, litigation counsel, special master, as well as on community boards and service organizations and as a civic advocate. On the private side I represented clients confronting government obstinacy, bureaucracy and incompetence. I understand the frustration and cynicism that many feel and am profoundly motivated to restore faith and confidence in government. In twenty years of practice and service in our community I have maintained a reputation for ethics, integrity, perseverance, transparency and commitment to reform, which I will bring to this task.

The future and the fortunes of Miami Beach are inextricably connected to the County. We rely on the County for the disposition of bond proceeds voters approved for our City, but over which the County holds strings. Out of the public eye are a series of critical agreements between the County and the City that affect development projects and financing. Securing our due proceeds and expediting projects over which the County has jurisdiction, including roadways and schools, requires being effective with elected and appointed county officials. Over my eight years as a county commissioner I learned how the County operates, an exposure and understanding that should serve our City well.

In addition to my academic studies in Government and then Law at Harvard University, and twenty-five years of the practice of law, I have been a student and practitioner of local government since I moved back to South Florida in 1993. During this twenty year period I’ve had responsibility over a wide range of challenges directly relevant to the duties of city manager:

 – Eight years on the Miami-Dade County Commission, during which time I chaired the Budget and Finance Committee, and the Mayor’s Task Force on Efficiency and Competition in Government. I also served as the County’s liaison to the Miami Downtown Development Authority and the Miami-Dade League of Cities;

– City Attorney for the cities of Doral and Marathon, and general counsel for the

Florida Atlantic Research and Development Authority;

– Chief Special Master for the City of Miami Beach;

– Special counsel to handle collective bargaining for the cities of Miami Gardens and Sunny Isles Beach;

– Special Master in various cities in Miami-Dade County, and chairman of the Code Enforcement Board of the City of Miami;

– Special litigation counsel to the Miami Gardens and Doral in connection with

obtaining their share of the CITT funding from the County; and

– Special counsel to the Miami-Dade League of Cities in connection with various

matters, including negotiating the new CITT contracts with the County.

I have negotiated union contracts, grappled with significant budgets, learned the ins and outs of public finance, and worked from A-Z on significant public infrastructure projects such as the $100 million wastewater sewer project in Marathon and a new City Hall in Doral. I am intimately familiar with building, permitting and code enforcement issues, have worked daily with procurement issues and with human resource directors, and led the County’s effort to

implement efficiency and managed competition projects. On the County Commission, I championed ethics and integrity reforms including the creation of the Ethics Commission, the passage of the Cone of Silence legislation governing procurement lobbying and influence-peddling, major campaign finance reform, and the creation of the Commission Auditor office to provide the County Commission a critical independent audit tool.

In representing private entities before local governments in South Florida I gained an important outside perspective on the strengths and shortcomings of government administration, including obduracy, entrenched bureaucracy, self-preservation, protectionism, special interests, favoritism, non-communication, concealment, incompetency and mismanagement.

Throughout my twenty-five year professional career, as a manager and supervisor I’ve motivated organizations to perform. At my law firm, and as a County Commissioner with a dozen staff members, I’ve hired and fired, conducted performance evaluations, and dealt with personnel management. I understand the importance of not only hiring talented professionals, but motivating performance by leading through example, demanding accountability, and disciplining when necessary. I will be a hands-on City Manager and will always accept responsibility for performance of all City departments at all levels.

I am particularly sensitive to your responsibilities as elected officials – the City’s legislative and policy-setting body. Yours is the ultimate responsibility, which cannot be carried out without total responsive professionalism on the part of the city manager and the organization he oversees. I’ve experienced the frustration a commissioner feels when he doesn’t get the information he needs when he needs it, and without equivocation, and when the administration sidesteps or undermines policies set by the Commission. Like each of you, I’ve fielded too many phone calls from angry residents frustrated by administrative action, inaction, indifference, arrogance or incompetence, and unnecessary procedures that defy common sense. I, too, have shaken my head in dismay when I see tax dollars spent on bloated contracts and unnecessary expenditures.

My job as your City Manager will not be to protect the bureaucracy or implement my personal preferences by lobbying for four votes. My job will be to provide each of you with the information you need to set the policy and course for the City, and then to lead the administration with all the tools at our disposal to make sure that policy and direction are implemented honestly, effectively, and with respect for all segments of the public.

Thank you for this opportunity to submit my credentials for your consideration. I look forward to this process and I hope that you give serious consideration to a non-traditional candidacy. These extraordinary times at the City also present extraordinary opportunities making it quite appropriate to think outside of the proverbial box. I dedicated myself long ago to public service and seek the chance to continue that commitment by returning to my home town to provide administrative leadership at this critical point.

I pledge to you, to city employees, to our residents and businesses that, if appointed, I will use all the energy and skill at my command to meet the challenges our City faces.

Sincerely,   Jimmy Morales

Morales Praised for Experience and Integrity

Jimmy Morales’s bid to be Miami Beach’s next city manager is drawing rave reviews from one local civic activist.

Frank Del Vecchio, in a letter to city leaders last week, praised Morales as having a “compelling personal story, prestigious academic and professional qualifications, wide experience in government, and an unblemished record of integrity.”

Morales, he said, “can meet the challenges we face with no learning curve to overcome” and is “ready to give his all to what our city needs.”

Del Vecchio told the SunPost that “a person of Jimmy Morales’s stature [as city manager] will enable our city to turn the page on an unfortunate chapter in its history and focus on the challenges and opportunities before us.”

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Comments

  1. gaga says:

    I have known Jimmy since the debate team at Miami Beach High School. He was always driven and focused on doing the right thing the best.

    As a long time resident I could not imagine a better City Manager.

    If we are so lucky to get him, lets hope it is for a very long time.

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