|Mayor Carlos Gimenez and County Commissioner Steve Bovo|
So far, the three leading candidates to become the next Commission Chairperson are current Vice Chair Esteban Bovo, and Commissioners Rebeca Sosa and Audrey Edmonson.
|Marco Rubio Swears in Steve Bovo as Vice Chair of the County Commission|
An issue of concern in the selection of the new Chairperson process is the association of Commissioner Esteban Bovo to the American Dream Miami megamall project planned by a Canadian company for the Northwest Dade quadrant of 1-75 and the Florida Turnpike.
The megamall is intended to be built on a 200 acre rural tract and is opposed by the majority of citizens in Palm Springs North and Miami Lakes due to the fact that it will bring additional congestion to an area already besieged with major traffic problems. According to Commissioner Bovo the $4 billion project will bring 25,000 jobs to the community and will aid the local economy. The project is also supported by Mayor Carlos Gimenez who throughout the last four years has relied on Commission Bovo as his closest ally in the Board of County Commissioners.
The selection of Commissioner Esteban Bovo as Commission Chairman, in my opinion, would in essence solidify Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s total control of county government since Commissioner Bovo would play a key role in rubber stamping all of Mayor Gimenez’s proposals on the commission. At a time when other commissioners are actively considering removing some or all of the powers of the strong mayor format, selecting Commissioner Bovo as Commission Chairman would not be beneficial to the citizens of our county.
Another glaring issue that should be addressed during the course of the selection process of the new Commission Chairperson is Commissioner Bovo’s role in the 2012 election absentee ballot fraud investigation.
As previously reported in 2012, Commissioner Bovo had to explain himself to the State Attorney’s Office for the actions of his former employee Anamary Pedrosa. Pedrosa was given immunity by the State Attorney’s Office and she cooperated with police in providing evidence that convicted known Hialeah boletero Sergio “Tio” Robaina. Robaina transported a total of 164 illegally collected absentee ballots to Commissioner Bovo’s office. The ballots were collected and stored by Pedrosa at Commissioner Bovo’s Hialeah regional office. Though the State Attorney’s Office failed to file criminal charges against Commissioner Bovo or to use Pedrosa’s testimony against the commissioner it is highly unlikely that Pedrosa operated on her own but rather would have collected absentee ballots from Robaina with the knowledge of Commisioner Bovo.
Commissioner Bovo’s selection of employees has also come into question on more than one occasion in the past. His current Executive Director Alina Garcia was a longtime aide to U.S. Representative David Rivera. Garcia is the mother of Senator Marco Rubio’s regional director, Alyn Fernandez (formerly Alyn Cruz Higgins). Ms. Fernandez owned a consulting company, ACH Fundraising Strategies, which received $75,000 from Rep. Rivera’s state Senate campaign for conducting a supposed “thank you” campaign. ACH was incorporated one day after a $50,000 payment was made from Rep. Rivera’s campaign and dissolved less than six months later. Notably, investigators found Ms. Fernandez never actually did any work for Rep. Rivera, in part because she was never given any direction as to the services she was to provide. ACH did have one other customer: Sen. Rubio’s campaign, which paid $22,000 to the firm for financial and political consulting, including a $10,000 payment made the day before the company dissolved. Ms. Fernandez is currently Sen. Rubio’s regional director, with a salary of $69,999.84.
(THIS SECTION CONTAINS A CORRECTION by Mr. Annunziato)Commissioner Bovo’s current Legislative Director Alex Annunziato, in my opinion, should not be working in Bovo's office. Annunziato, a former lieutenant with the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) resigned from his position on July 10, 2011, coincidentally following an internal Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation. FHP allegations were dismissed by the Dept. of Law Enforcement in 2012 (see letter below). In other words, Annunziato WAS CLEARED OF ALL CHARGES by their dismissal.
In my opinion, Commission Bovo would absolutely be the worst possible choice for County Commission Chair in November.