Who’s The Boss In Coral Gables?

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
[email protected]


The question of who City staff answers to following the departure of Assistant City Manager Ed Santamaria has been cleared up over the last few weeks, its City Manager Peter Iglesias. An entrenched City Manager who is seeking to run the City on his own personal agenda with complete disregard to the interests of residents or their representatives on the City Commission.

From the forceful push for the controversial Mobility Hub, to the dismissive behavior towards members of the Commission during Commission meetings, to his backroom deal for Burger Bob’s without Commission knowledge, City Manager has been testing the resolve of his bosses on the City Commission every step of the way.

As the saying goes, “the City Manager just needs to be able to count to three,” the number of votes required by the Commission to save his job.

Following the April 12th City Commission meeting, Gables Insider reported about Iglesias and staff dragging their feet on Burger Bob’s renovations and the Commission’s desire to build a dog park at Salvadore Park. The park was proposed by Commissioner Rhonda Anderson, who had been seeking a quick solution to the growing need for a dog park in the City Beautiful, which has never had one.

At that meeting, Iglesias and his team informed the Commission that the estimated cost of a simple dog park in open space at Salvadore Park, without any special features or water connection for dog drinking fountains would come at a cost of $275,000 to the City.

Iglesias and company said the high price was due to the need to place aluminum fencing around the site and the potential move of storm drains and sidewalks.

However, Iglesias’ numbers were quickly called to question by members of the Commission.

As Anderson pointed out, a chain-link fence provides a higher security for keeping children away from the dogs, an issue that was highlighted at the meeting by residents using Catalonia Park. Mayor Vince Lago also pointed out that the storm drains did not need to be removed, rather they needed to find a cover that would not harm the dogs. Staff was adamant and even tried to shame the Commission for not trying to do the park the right way.

The Miami Reality

The Bayfront Park Management Trust was created in the 1980s to operate the City of Miami’s largest park, Bayfront Park, along with neighboring Maurice A. Ferré Park (formerly known as Museum Park). The trust has worked on numerous projects over the last few years to make improvements to the park and meet the growing needs of the surrounding community. The construction of new residential buildings in the area have led to the need for dog parks. The trust began working on this issue and is in the process of completing two new dog parks, one at Bayfront Park and one at Ferré Park.

Construction of Maurice A. Ferré Dog Park is almost complete.

When complete, the park will feature several play features, tunnels, benches for owners and a dog drinking fountain. Water connection for the drinking fountain is required.

Gables Insider has learned that Trust is paying under $125,000 for the entire build of Ferré Park, tunnels, features, benches, as well as the water connection and drinking fountain. The price also includes the aluminum fencing that City staff claims would make the cost of this park astronomical.

Additionally, a comparison of the size of the parks shows that Ferré Park will be about three times the size of Salvadore Park.

Side-by-side comparison of Maurice Ferré Dog Park and the proposed Salvadore Dog Park

Images of Maurice A. Ferré Park

Burger Bob’s

As previously reported, Iglesias took the same measures when it came to the interior renovations of the former location of Burger Bob’s.

In that case, the Manager quoted a $900,000 basic interior renovation of a space that is just over 2,500 square feet. Even with today’s high construction prices, $900,000 would be more than enough to build a high end 2,500 square foot home in the City of Coral Gables.

On this item, Mayor Lago also stepped in and informed staff that he would work on pricing out the build, something that irritated Iglesias.

Why?

The question on why Iglesias is dragging his feet is a simple one. Iglesias sees the writing on the wall. Numerous staff mistakes and his own inability to effectively do his job have placed him in hot water. Sources at City Hall inform Gables Insider that Iglesias has had several yelling matches with members of the Commission.

Defying Commission Requests

He has also defied requests from members of the Commission.

Just two weeks ago, this publication’s editor, Ariel Fernandez, asked for a meeting with the Chief of Police, Edward J. Hudak, Jr., to discuss safety concerns at Salvadore Park as well as in his North Gables neighborhood.

Following months of Fernandez’s requests being ignored by the Chief, Mayor Lago intervened and asked the Chief and Fernandez to meet with him in order to find a resolution to the issues being raised by Fernandez. The Chief reached out to Iglesias to have Iglesias intervene. He did. He informed the Mayor and Fernandez that no meeting would take place, setting his authority as City Manager over the safety and well-being of children and residents.

The safety concerns, still remain unaddressed.

There should be no question as to who the Manager answers to, however, as the City’s Charter makes that very clear, “the City Manager shall be responsible to the Commission for the proper administration of all affairs of the City placed in his or her charge.” (Article II, Section 12).

Staff Concerns

Sources inform Gables Insider that City staff has become uncomfortable with Iglesias’ management style and the safety of their jobs if they question the City Manager.

At the last Mayor’s Council Meeting, the Council invited the City’s Chief Innovation Officer, Raimundo Rodulfo, to speak. Rodulfo was visibly uncomfortable answering questions where he might differ with Iglesias’ opinion. The Council eventually passed the initiative, which the Commission unanimously added to the Mayor’s Strategic Plan on Tuesday.

Gables Insider has invited staff to participate in its Coffee with Leaders program, to discuss permit department changes, the passport office and other programs. Each time, Iglesias has vetoed their participation. A City that claims to be doing so much to improve customer service for residents, seems to be uninterested in letting anyone know.

Job Security?

Iglesias who is entering his fourth year on the job is entering the general replacement time-frame of a City of Coral Gables City Manager. His last two predecessors, Pat Salerno and Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, were on the job for five years and four years respectively. The Commission might soon need to consider its options, with Iglesias’ record of actively working against them and residents. The Charter places the responsibility on the Commission to take action in cases where the Manager is not doing their job, stating that “it is the intention of this Charter to vest in the Commission all authority and fix all responsibility for the suspension or removal of the Manager.” (Article II, Section 11).

Iglesias can probably also see the writing on the wall, with a Coral Gables Municipal election just a year away that could change the makeup of the Commission.

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36 thoughts on “Who’s The Boss In Coral Gables?

  1. I’ll tell you what!
    The real boss is Ed Hudak’s wife!
    She’s always had him by the balls. And she runs shit.
    He needs to be fired. Everyone is sick of him. Replacing him would be extremely easy.

  2. Don’t be fooled. Chief Edward Hudak, Jr. is most definitely behind this. He’s gunning for the City Manager’s position. He’s highly incompetent but a skilled expert at taking people out behind the scenes… Game of Thrones in action.

  3. Nothing will change. Elections bring empty promises,
    Commissioners or Mayors have other agendas.
    The positions are low paying and thankless.
    Example – Menendez- got elected – voted for zoning changes in Crafts District- sold his properties-in the Crafts District—Kaching$$$$$$ Looking forward to his being ousted.

  4. This is what happens when corrupt latin’s run the show. Looks familiar??

  5. We don’t need a dog park around children.
    I love my dog but she doesn’t need a park.

  6. Peter is an amazing engineer. His tenure reflects this. His management skills leave much to be desired. Coral Gables needs a well rounded manager who can manage an entire city and not just projects. The new manager shouldn’t be like Salerno and Swanson who never met a developer they didn’t like. A strong mayor is a terrible idea. Look at how that’s working in Hialeah.

  7. All this blame on the manager, when the commission supports his items and the Mayor sets the agenda.and controls the meetings. Also, don’t forget that the mobility hub is L’Ego’s baby not Iglesias.

  8. This week’s puppet award goes to the mayor and 4 commissioners in Coral Gables, Fl., because
    they allowed a dictator, Peter Iglesias, to run the local government.

  9. A poster here wants a professional, strong mayor for Gables? No! The Founders of this nation were part time public servants with real jobs.

  10. BAFFLES ME THAT WITH SO MUCH GOING AGAINST THE MOBILITY HUB [thousands of residents have voiced their opposition, escalating costs almost tripling the original project, and the detrimental environmental effects that a demolition and new construction will expose] COMMISSIONERS CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THE MANAGER’S PROJECT. SOMETHING TO PONDER. The time is right for Coral Gables to rethink the new mobility hub concept, not only in terms of escalating costs that could reach the $100 million mark but even more so for the sake of a sustainable future.

  11. Less talk. More action. Clean house. Use a recall petition to fire all the commissioners and the mayor for keeping Peter Iglesias, Miriam Ramos , and Ramon Trias.

    The next commissioners and mayor must fire Peter Iglesias, Miriam Ramos , and Ramon Trias.

    End of story.

  12. When is the last time the Commission didn’t unanimously approve something brought forward by the Manager? Why do people continuously blame staff? Commission sets the priorities and budget by their votes. Commission continues to vote yes. If there is a dissenting vote, it’s usually Lago using the oldest trick in the book – vote “no” when you know the majority is voting yes to give the impression you’re voting with the people. Come on now, it’s painfully obvious.

  13. We either change to a strong-mayor or eliminate all elected official salaries. Nearly $40,000 a year with pension. Yes commissioners get pensions in our city along with health and other benefits. If they want to sit and look pretty they shouldn’t get paid. The titles for their egos and businesses should be good enough.

  14. Are we talking about kick backs and corruption? Shouldn’t it be spelled out? Should be brought to light once and for all in no ambiguous manner.

  15. BAFFLES ME THAT WITH SO MUCH GOING AGAINST THE MOBILITY HUB [thousands of residents have voiced their opposition, escalating costs almost tripling the original project, and the detrimental environmental effects that a demolition and new construction will expose] COMMISSIONERS CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THE MANAGER’S PROJECT. SOMETHING TO PONDER. The time is right for Coral Gables to rethink the new mobility hub, not only in terms of escalating costs that could run into $100 million mark but for the sake of a sustainable future. Read article for more details.
    https://gablesinsider.com/opinion-its-not-nice-to-fool-mother-nature/

  16. Interesting discussion, limited Government is best. Doesn’t seem the City Manager has much respect for the Mayor and Commission.

  17. I have no idea why the commenters here, like Sally B, think that the Manager is able to survive the disapproval of the Commission. He can be fired tonight, for Heaven’s sake. He’s appointed!

    As to the solution, Lago literally sets the Agenda. He can place an in or out item on the Commission agenda and dump him with three votes.

    Come on, people. Stop pretending the Mayor is a victim. He’s the problem.

  18. CHANGE THE FORM OF OUR GOVERNMENT
    Maybe the time has come to implement (or perhaps revert to) an executive mayor form of government, a strong mayor one. The strength part of the model goes not to autocracy but to accountability. Unlike a city manager, that operational executive will face the voters.

    Let’s have a mayor who is a real and full-time executive. Let’s pay him/her a salary and benefits equivalent to what we pay city managers. That ought to enhance the pool of competent applicants.

    Let’s reduce the number of commissioners to three, but raise their salary to make it attractive to candidates for whom being local legislators will be their full-time job. For example, commissioners receive 95% of the mayor’s salary.

    If you think 3 commissioners is too low a number, let’s put that in perspective. Compare 3 legislators for roughly 50,000 Coral Gables residents to our federal government, 535 legislators for 330 million residents. The numbers work out to: In Coral Gables one legislator per 17,000 residents. In the federal government, one legislator per 617,000 residents.

    Also, no staggering of terms. Both the commissioners and mayor face the voters at every election every two years.

    INTERIM SOLUTION
    I don’t know if we do this now, but if we don’t, let’s have a formal yes/no vote by all commissioners every 6 months on whether to retain the city manager and city attorney. Let’s have a similar vote every 12 months for department heads.

    This will allow residents to see how our elected officials truly and regularly evaluate our staffers. Their periodic decisions will be of course final, but those decisions will be a clear record for voters to evaluate the commissioners.

    Personally, for example, I would have liked to have seen (through their votes) what our Commissioners really thought about our City Attorney after the WaWa fiasco came to the limelight. Ditto for Mr Trias’ Biltmore Section up-zoning “error”.

  19. The Peter Iglesias Memorial Mobility Hub is a complete fraud upon the residents of Coral Gables. It started off as a $28M project and has ballooned to an estimated $62M financial boondoggle. Who is financially benefitting from a parking lot constructed with a dual purpose to be condos (maybe) in the future. Let’s have some financial accountability and make the parking garage a real parking garage at a real cost of $28M…Stop the check writing tomfoolery. …..AND…..someone reported that Coral Gables has authorized $7M for the Underline. Is it true. Who is watching the cash register?

  20. Unfortunately the City – a number of years ago – adopted the Strong City Manager form of government. Now we’re screwed.

  21. “Nature hates a vacuum.” Application:

    The City Commission and Mayor are utterly lacking in leadership skills. So the City Manager, knowing that, has filled that void.

    Any real leaders would have solved this manager problem years ago.

  22. This is one of the best and most important articles that the Gables Insider has published in a while. Ariel Fernandez identifies the core root of so many problems that arise in Coral Gables. Mr. Banos also states it clearly: residents elect our City Commission; the Commission SHOULD be directing our City Staff (via the City Manager), and not the other way around. Ideally, the residents (via our City Boards and town-hall meetings), the elected City Commission, and the City Staff should be on the same page (granted, we can’t all agree on everything!). Over time however, City Staff becomes emboldened and feels empowered to advance their own pet-projects and agendas which often conflict with what the residents want and quite often, will reflect what developers want instead! It’s about time that our City Commission demonstrate the leadership and strength to show Peter Iglesias the door; he is NOT on the side of the residents as this article cogently describes (and there are many other examples!!!). But the challenge doesn’t stop there! The “revolving door” of the Mayor and Commission seats encourage an “over-time strengthening” of ANY City Manager, as well as long-standing Staff employees. Our taxes pay the City Manager and ALL OTHER City Staff salaries; our Mayor and Commissioners should be resolute in assuring that staff abides by what the residents and City Commission want. Reigning in and MAINTAINING the control, power, attitude and influence of ANY City Manager is the KEY to running a City that remains responsive to its residents, the true “stake-holders” of Coral Gables. This should be the primary goal of every elected member of our Commission. There is an “action-item” on the table, Commission — are you listening?

  23. I agree that Iglesias should be replaced ASAP with someone to be selected from candidates that have NOTHING to do with current City employees. We need NEW BLOOD !!!!!!!!!

  24. Thank you Ariel without the Gables insider these issues would be hidden, now we can see how delinquent some in the city administration are…
    Take back the City beautiful or it will turn ugly like those bad apples. It a shame power hungry folks need to rule to feel important…maybe that’s the way their homes are administrated… SAD!

  25. Here is a news flash Lago and Commissioners. If this horrible Manager is still there at election time, we will vote out every incumbent. You work for us and we do not want this authoritarian person as our Manager. It’s time to wipe clean all of you and start over with people who support its residents.

  26. Iglesias and his Pet Projects Must Go!! The same goes for Trias & the City Attorney, too many mistakes and always for “special” interests not benefitting the City residents. This trio, The Tres Amigos Must go! Mr. Mayor, Clean Housed, Clean City Hall, get rid of the Leftovers!!!!
    Thank you Ariel, keep it up!

  27. I am baffled about how/why Iglesias (and the City Attorney) remain on the City payroll. From all of the reporting (and that’s only what has come to light — can you imagine what’s going on behind the scenes), seems that at least he (and she) should be sent packing. Not quite sure why he (they) are allowed to continue. Perhaps the residents should unite and petition the Commission to have the City Manager (and City Attorney) dismissed? It’s way past time to clean house at the City.

  28. Corruption is rampant in Coral Gables. Feels like the Banana Republic with its dictators seeking to rule by force w/o caring for the people they are supposed to serve

  29. Let me share an example of how the City Manager works. After many years, and several studies, and Miami-Dade’s approval, the Miller Road/San Amaro Circle is not fixed. So I requested a meeting with the City Manager and invited the Mayor to join us. Forget the circle, because the City Manager does NOT want to take care of it. Not wanted to waste my time, I took the opportunity to ask about some problems we have about illegal parking on Miller Road. After I suggested those areas be converted to disabled parking, Mr. Iglesias disclosed to us that he didn’t want more pavement but that there was a beautification project planned for the area. I reached out to Assistant Director of Public Works for Greenspace Management. who was unaware of any such project and told me that she would come back to me after she looked into it. Shortly after she emailed me to let me know that “currently there is no project approved or budgeted by commission for the embellishment of Miller Road between Alhambra and San Amaro.”

  30. No more talk City Manager Peter Iglesias must go. Talk has gotten no results.

    The commissioners and the Mayor don’t listen to us. They support Peter Iglesias. They won’t fire him.

    The result: get the commissioners’ and the mayor’s attention.

    How? A petition to recall a commissioner will get attention. It sends a loud and clear message to that commissioner to fire Peter Iglesias.

    Start with Kirk Menendez. Running for office, he promised no over-building. In office, he voted for more over-building. In office, he also wanted to put the taxpayers into debt with the $140 million bond to improve the parks. He voted for the mobility hub. He is very bad for the residents.

    If he wants to keep his job as commissioner, he will see to it that at least 2 other commissioners will also fire Peter Iglesias.

    If Kirk Menendez can’t do it, he is gone.

    Start a petition to recall the next commissioner, until the government represents the residents.

    It’s decision time. Put up or shut up about Peter Iglesias.

    I am ready to sign a recall petition on commissioner Kirk Menendez, to throw him and Peter Iglesias out of City Hall.

  31. How can the Chief of Police not meet with residents to discuss safety issues? Coral Gables is suffering from the same problem the country is, authoritarian rule is replacing democracy and that coupled with a corrupt leader, Peter Iglesias , is a disaster for the community. Peter Iglesias will only do what is in his best interest, $$$, not the residents. I guess that is where the new restaurant operator taking over all the city’s properties , that Iglesias made secret deals with, fits into the equation. He has a lot of $$$.

  32. Having dealt with staff mostly for permitting gives me only 1 window, butcdoesn’t take more than 1 window to see thw incompetence and disregard for residents with which th City is run. This guy Yglesias is a bad actor, plain and simple. Question is, ill the commission act?

  33. I have never understood the love affair that so many have with Hudak. He would excel setting up a PR shingle post-retirement.

  34. Managers are answerable to the Commission, who ultimately work for the residents. The City is not a venue for autocracy or pet projects. The focus should be on the challenges and infrastructure needs of the City that benefit residents the most. We cannot have our staff working on their own agendas at the expense of the residents and on their dime.

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