City Public Affairs Manager Sends All Clear On Coronavirus, By “Mistake”

On Wednesday, the City of Coral Gables sent its newsletter to residents and included an article on Coronavirus (COVID-19).

In what the City is calling a “mistake,” the email stated that, ” The City of Coral Gables Fire Department’s Division of Emergency Management is actively monitoring the development of the current respiratory virus know as Coronavirus (COVID-19). There are no known cases of the virus in the City of Coral Gables or Miami-Dade County. All measures up to this point are precautionary and educational in nature as there is no threat to Coral Gables residents or the residents of Miami Dade County.”

The City’s eNews newsletters are the responsibility of current Public Affairs Manager, Maria Rosa Higgins-Fallon.

In conversations with the City, Gables Insider was told that the use of words was a “mistake” by Higgins-Fallon and a “poor choice of words,” while assuring us that the City is taking COVID-19 seriously and its Emergency Manager, Fire Chief Marcos De La Rosa is working with medical professionals and his predecessor, Marc Stolzenberg, to monitor the situation and adhere to CDC recommendations.

Higgins-Fallon has long struggled to secure press coverage for the City. She has actively alienated members of the press and been uncooperative with others. City Hall insiders also say she was instrumental along with her former boss and city manager, Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark for blocking the Police and Fire departments from having their own social media accounts to communicate public safety matters.

The City has recently begun a search for a new Communications and Public Affairs Division Director, an $82k – $119k a year position that would oversee Higgins-Fallon’s work and ensure “mistakes” like this one are a thing of the past. Higgins-Fallon makes over $101,000 a year in her current position.

Members of the City Commission expressed their concern with the wording, while reassuring that the City is taking the virus seriously:

“We are asking our residents to stay informed and follow CDC guidance. We are working closely with Miami-Dade County and the State of Florida, as we continue to monitor this developing situation. I have expressed my concerns to the City Manager in regards to this statement, as this is a serious concern and we should take every precaution to ensure the public’s safety,” said Vice Mayor Vince Lago.

“I think the overall goal of the communications is to acknowledge the threat and provide useful information. Overall, I thought the communication was very informative and provided objective information for our residents. The choice of words in that one sentence (“no threat”) was poor. If there was no threat we would not be monitoring it and making these efforts. I communicated with the Manager this afternoon and he has addressed it. Our communications staff will be more judicious with their choice of words and stick to providing facts and updates as opposed to attempting to allay concerns,” said Commissioner Michael Mena.

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9 thoughts on “City Public Affairs Manager Sends All Clear On Coronavirus, By “Mistake”

  1. Let’s face it, if the Public Affairs Manager is doing such a great job, why is the City hiring someone at a Director’s level and salary to oversee the Manager? Am I missing something?

  2. In my dealings with Ms. Higgins Fallon over the last several years, I have always found her to be professional and responsive. I don’t think the wording of the release was that big a deal. The story should be more about the correct Coronavirus message and not about a particular city employee. I applaud how the city administration is handling the situation thus far.

  3. I guess the City finally pulled the trigger, as the PR Mgr, really did not represent the city or us as residents. About time!

  4. I am having a hard time understanding what’s the big deal with this message. “The coronavirus has not yet threatened our city, and all measures up to this point, are educational and preventive in nature…” is this truly a wrong statement?
    To those of you who think it is, what did you expect to hear? Run for your lives and hide under a whole? I think we are pointing fingers in the wrong direction!
    Instead of focusing in this meaningless message, why don’t we ask our city administrators and elected officials, how are we preparing for this virus? Have we secured enough testing kits, proper hazmat suits for the protection of our first responders? Is there sufficient disinfectants for the public spaces in our city? Do we have a contingency plan for a possible outbreak in our schools, with our elderly community? C’mon, there is far more important things to focus on at this time! This whole thing about putting an employee on the line for a “non-existing” mistake is rising eyebrows. What is really going on here? Who is behind this and for what purpose? I think someone is using this situation as a scapegoat to cover up for a very poor administration.
    We see more and more businesses leaving our city. Miracle Mile is practically a ghost town and Giralda only have beautiful umbrellas and lots of empty chairs.
    Constructions keeps on the rise left and right and the existing business are afraid to share their few customers they have with more competitors. We don’t have enough parking nor enough roads for more people moving into our city. All of these new residential developments will bring more and more vehicles and we all have to share the same roads in which traffic is already a nightmare.
    I urge residents to focus in the things that really matter and demand some questions.

  5. These comments don’t seem right. Coral Gables get lots of media coverage and its collateral material like brochures, booklets is excellent. Rosa is easy to work with.

  6. It’s frustrating when we read such articles and ultimately a slap on the hand is the end result. If you’re not doing your job or doing a lousy job you get fired. That’s the real world. Why is this so difficult to understand?

  7. So, we have a Public Affairs MANAGER, Maria Rosa Higgins-Fallon. It appears from several sources cited in the article she has difficulty doing a proper job on several levels, including the media that she is supposed to work with.
    Why is she still in that job? Who has made that decision?

  8. This is just another example of what our Public Affairs department has been doing, or not doing, for some time.
    How much longer is our administration, and our elected officials going to put up with it? How can someone involved in public relations for our City not get along with other media? C’mon, let’s move on getting the right person for the job!

  9. This is irresponsible messaging from the Public Affairs Manager. The coronavirus represents a real threat to our city’s population, especially for those who are elderly or ill. People should be gathering supplies and remain aware of the virus’ spread

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