Sweetwater, FL – City Commissioners met Monday night to vote over pending issues with the ratification of department heads for the new administration.
With two months into the new administration, Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez has only submitted one department head for ratification by the commission, Sweetwater Police Interim Chief Placido Diaz. This is the third commission meeting in which city commissioners complain about the Mayor not submitting the names of candidates for ratification, as required by the city charter in the first meeting after the mayoral election. The lack of nominees isÂ because, according to newly appointed Chief of Staff (and former City Attorney) Ralph Ventura, there have been very few responses from ads placed. Mayor Lopez is reportedly in charge of the candidate vetting process.
Section 2-112 of the city charterÂ gives the Mayor the responsibility to appoint department heads for Police Chief, Maintenance Director, Parks & Recreation Director, Finance Director and Building, Planning, Zoning & Roads Director. The Mayor is required to appoint those positions “prior to the first regular meeting of the city commission immediately following the mayor’s investiture”, but it is up to the commissioners to ratify the candidates. The section also states that the Mayor must present to the commission the names of the department head nominees for each department during the first commissioners meeting immediately after the mayoral election.
During June 15th commission meeting, Mayor Lopez clarified that he requested one month to present the department heads he was going to submit for ratification. “In the last two weeks, it has been very chaotic in this city, in my office… and I have not had an opportunity to sit down with the department heads so we can request for qualification as well as salary requirements.”
Commissioners Threaten Legal Action
“I want to reiterate that Mayor Lopez continues to violate the (city) charter by not havingÂ all the names of his directors available. Seems to be that it’s very hard to find qualified people to come to the City of Sweetwater.” Commission Vice-President Jose M. Diaz said. Commissioner Idania Llanio brought up a suggestion,Â brought up in the June 15, 2015 commission meeting, to take legal action against the Mayor and possibly remove him from office for violating the city charter.
Section 4.06 of the city charter states:
- Section 4.06. – Forfeiture of office.
If at any time during his term of office, the mayor should cease to possess any of the required qualifications, he shall forfeit his office. If the city commission by five-sevenths (5/7) vote of the entire membership finds that the mayor has intentionally violated the requirements of this Charter or the Constitution and laws of the State of Florida, and that said action was deliberate and willful the commission may file in the circuit court of Miami-Dade County an action in the nature of quo warranto to oust the mayor from office. In considering such an action the court will exercise its equitable jurisdiction and may allow some other appropriate remedy in the best interests of the citizens of the City of Sweetwater. This remedy is in addition to the citizens right to recall their public officials as provided by the laws of Florida.
Source of Job Vacancy Advertisements Unknown
We have reached out to the City of Sweetwater HR Director Joanna Rubio and newly appointed Public Information Officer Claudia Miro to ask about details regarding the efforts to find candidates:
- How many people have applied for each position?
- How many have been interviewed?
- Other than the website, what other means are you using the advertise the positions?
As of this time, none of the department head vacancies are posted on the City of Sweetwater website. We are still awaiting information on whetherÂ the positions have been filled or why the jobs are not listed on the city website.
Votes NOT To Ratify Interim Chief Placido Diaz
Even after Interim Police Chief presented one of the most detailed plans of action to improve the Sweetwater Police Department ever presented before the City Commissioners, Commissioners voted on a motion to not ratify Chief Placido Diaz 4-3. Duasso, Marono, and Suarez voted against the motion.
A majority of the commissioners seemed to dislike the idea of having the former member of the City of Miami Police leading the Sweetwater Police Department.Â “He’s been interim chief from the day after the Mayor got here until now, and look at these issues we’ve had: Dolphin Mall, the firing of 15 police officers, and different other issues” said Commissioner Jose Bergouignan.
Interim Chief Diaz will continue serving as the acting chief.
Section 2-112 of the city charter also gives the Mayor the power to appoint an interim-director for each department, until commissioners ratify a department head. This potentially gives the Mayor the power to place interim-chief Placido Diaz as acting or interim chief for the duration of his four year term.
Chief of Staff Ralph Ventura informed that Mayor Orlando Lopez was absent from the meeting due to a back injury that left him bedridden.