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In Tears, Fired City Manager Says Treatment Was “Far Worse” Than Iraq

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Outgoing City Manager Hector Mirabile gets a hug from South Miami Planning Director Christopher Brimo after a meeting Friday night. (Source: ANDREA TORRES/MIAMI HERALD STAFF)

Outgoing City Manager Hector Mirabile gets a hug from South Miami Planning Director Christopher Brimo after a meeting Friday night. (Source: ANDREA TORRES/MIAMI HERALD STAFF)

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SOUTH MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Miami commissioners fired their fourth city manager in as many years Friday night.

CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reports outgoing City Manager Hector Mirabile said Friday that his last year working for South Miami was far worse than being under daily attack as a lieutenant colonel in Ramadi, Iraq, where he was stationed in 2009.

With tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat, Mirabile told the crowd at the commission meeting that he was proud of his team and all that they had accomplished during the two years in the city.

“Part of my management leadership style is to surround myself with the best available leaders that have the same drive and focus as I,” Mirabile said. “I am reporting to you that I accomplished that and more. The team of directors and managers currently working for the city are probably the best group.”

Some city employees, including South Miami’s director of human resources LaTasha M. Nickle, walked out of the meeting crying. Others filed up into his office to hug him.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to fire Mirabile without cause. South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, a biology professor turned politician, led the effort after accusing Mirabile and “his friend,” South Miami Police Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro, of turning the city into a “hostile” place.

“The situation has become intolerable,” Stoddard said.

Commissioners Bob Welsh and Walter Harris supported Stoddard’s effort. Vice Mayor Josh Liebman and Commissioner Valerie Newman dissented.

The city charter entitles a manager fired without cause to a month’s salary and benefits as severance, but Mirabile’s contract stipulates that a firing without cause before Sept. 20, 2015, required the city to pay his full salary as a “consultant” with benefits for six months. Under the contract’s terms, Mirabile received $140,000 in salary, and benefits included a $150 cellphone and $650 car allowance each month, plus a monthly $680 for health insurance coverage. Mirabile also receives benefits from the city of Miami.

Mirabile came to the city loaded with experience as a former Miami police major, Army National Guard veteran, and Miami’s interim director of community development and director of employee relations. He is also board chairman for the United Police Federal Credit Union, which represents police departments, including Miami, West Miami and the Miami-Dade County school district police.

In 2010, Mirabile replaced former acting city manager Buford “Randy” Witt, a retired Air Force general and former Miami-Dade chief information officer. Witt had replaced interim city manager Roger M. Carlton, who took Ajibola Balogun’s place after he was fired in 2009. A year ago, commissioners extended Mirabile’s three-year contract to two more years.

“I feel it was a mistake,” Stoddard said at a meeting Wednesday.

Before being fired, Witt chose Martinez de Castro as one of three finalists. Martinez de Castro, who worked in the Miami Police Department in the early 1980s with Mirabile, held several posts in South Miami, including public works director and assistant city manager before then-City Manager Maria Davis appointed him as police chief in October 2003. Martinez de Castro resigned in March 2006 and returned in 2010.

One of Mirabile’s biggest accomplishments: He restructured the police pension plan and moved toward a defined-contribution plan.

On Friday, commissioners named Kelly Barket as the acting city manager, while they look for an interim manager.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)

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