In 3-2 Vote, Miami Commission Moves Toward Charter Change After Chief Hire

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The City of Miami hired a big-name police chief earlier this year, Art Acevedo. The process proved controversial.

In response, City of Miami Commissioners voted 3-2 to create a more detailed process in the city charter for future public safety hires. The vote directed the city attorney write ballot language for approval to put the measure on the November ballot when voters could weigh in. 

This comes after NBC 6 Investigators reported on the hiring process and the consequent blowback. Currently, city manager Art Noriega has sole authority to make the hire.

NBC 6 requested a response to the vote, but have not yet heard back. Earlier he told NBC 6 he would not comment on the proposal unless asked by a commissioner at the meeting.

No commissioner asked for Noriega’s thoughts publicly.

City of Miami Chief Acevedo did not officially apply for the job he now holds. Noriega, with support from Mayor Francis Suarez, hired Acevedo around the informal process and over 50 applicants and eight finalists.

Five of the finalists were internal candidates. Community members participated in an informal vetting and interview process but the Acevedo hire came after that process was complete. The job was also posted for between $195,000 and $230,000. Acevedo started with $315,000, increasing every year with a positive review.

Former Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina made around $230,000 when he left. NBC 6 requested a comment from the chief through the department but has not yet heard back. Earlier, Acevedo said he wasn’t going to comment on the proposal but instead focus on his new job. 

“This is only to set the process, which we don’t have,” Commissioner Manolo Reyes said at the city commission meeting.

Reyes filed the change to the city charter, citing “concerns regarding how the recent selection process for the police chief was conducted.” 

“That process will bring more transparency to the selection of the two most important positions in our city government, which is fire and police,” Commissioner Reyes said. 

An earlier draft included a measure requiring a majority vote on the city commission to approve any new appointment. That measure was not included in the version commissioners approved.

“You’re not going to offend me if you want to take some powers away. The city manager isn’t God,” Commissioner Joe Carollo said, who voted to support the change. 

The third vote came from Commissioner Jeffrey Watson, who had concerns but felt the voters should weigh in. City attorney Victoria Mendez now will bring back specific language for commissioners. 

Commission Chair Ken Russell and Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla opposed the measure, having confidence in the current process led by Noriega.“I think the manager has the right, the sole right, exclusive right, to pick the police chief,” Commissioner Diaz de la Portilla said. 

“The talent of a good CEO is to attract good talent. How they do that is their magic,” Chair Russell said. 

Acevedo is one of the most well-known police chiefs in the country. He’s led high profile departments in Houston and Austin and he’s the President of the Major City Chiefs Association. Mayor Suarez compared him to the “Michael Jordan of Police chiefs.” City manager Noriega defended the hire earlier, telling NBC 6, “what I want the public to understand is that there were some good candidates and absent the availability of someone Chief Acevedo’s caliber, I would have definitely made a selection from the list of finalists. The time and effort put forth by both the law enforcement advisory group and the public interview committee were extremely helpful and provided me with incredible insight.”

“I simply couldn’t pass on the opportunity to hire a professional of Chief Acevedo’s capability,” Noriega said. 

Coming up in July, the commission will vote on the specific ballot language but since this will change the city charter voters will have an up or down vote on the item in November.

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