Town manager’s contract terminated by 3-2 vote

Interim Town Manager Rafael Casals

Town manager Steven J. Alexander’s contract with Cutler Bay was ended by a 3-2 vote of the town council in a special meeting on Monday, June 11.

The action followed disagreements among council members and public reaction over the May 1 firing of town clerk Esther Coulson and the resignation of her assistant, Pam Regula.

In the vote, Mayor Ed MacDougall, Vice Mayor Ernie Sochin and Councilmember Sue Ellen Loyzelle voted to terminate the contract, with council members Peggy Bell and Mary Ann Mixon casting “no” votes.

MacDougall commented on the vote and some of the background details in an interview on June 12

“I brought two resolutions for- ward last night,” MacDougall said. “I didn’t even have the resolutions ready until yesterday after- noon. I worked on them all week, as I was in negotiations with the manager’s attorney and our attorneys to come to some final agreement, and we did, so in a 3 to 2 vote last night, we cancelled his contract.”

Taking Alexander’s seat for the rest of the meeting was Rafael Casals, who will be serving as interim town manager as a result of the second vote of the evening, which placed him in the position effective immediately.
Casals has served as the town’s Public

Works director since October 2006, and previously served as the assistant town manager of Miami Lakes, city manager of North Bay Village and assistant city man- ager of Florida City, as well as other municipal government positions. He attended Homestead High School, Miami-Dade Community College and Florida Atlantic University, and has degrees in Business Administration and Business Management.

“I can tell you that the manager’s con- tract was an open end contract that had no sunset date,” MacDougall explained. “So it lived as long as he was alive or here. We didn’t have any review dates, which I was never happy with.

“[Former Mayor] Paul Vrooman put that contract together and there was just no sunset date. So basically that contract read that if we cancelled the agreement with the manager that we owed him nine months of salary and there was just no way out of it. We couldn’t even review him unless we fired him for cause, and I was not prepared to do that, so I brought to the council the termination of the contract, which of course triggered the clause.

“The contract was for perpetuity, and it was for 12 months compensation if it was within 90 days either side of an election, so I needed to do it within three months of the November elections or we would have owed him 12 months,” MacDougall added.

Steven J. Alexander began serving as Cutler Bay’s interim town manager in March 2006 and was hired officially on July 29, 2006. Alexander had worked pre- viously for the State of Florida, two Florida state universities and served as assistant to the county administrator in Broward County.

Mayor MacDougall explained that eventually a permanent town manager would be sought and that it would most likely be someone local.

“We will go into a search, probably a South Florida search,” MacDougall said. “I don’t see the need to do a national search. We’ve never hired a manager from California or otherwise. But we’re in no hurry. I think we need to let things settle in a bit and let Ralph get control of things. He’s very intimately knowledgeable about the workings of the town so it’s relatively easy for him to move for- ward with this. In the meantime we’ll explore our options on interviewing for a new manager.”

The mayor pointed out that the town also needs to hire a new clerk, a job which is being filled presently by Alexander’s assistant, Missy Arocha. The mayor said that he appreciated the involvement of everyone in the community and that he is optimistic about the future of the town.

“I am grateful to the people of Cutler Bay,” MacDougall said. “I am grateful to the staff members at Town Hall. I am fully confident that we will move forward in a friendly, open, transparent way and that our government will stand with open arms to the public.”

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