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Special Event

Miami Mayor Joe Carollo Holds News Conference on City Manager Firing

Aired May 1, 2000 - 10:43 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Live to Miami: Mayor Joe Carollo now talking.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MAYOR JOE CAROLLO, MIAMI, FLORIDA: ... and you hear it, but you could see it in the words of Donald Warshaw what just a year ago he was saying about me. Can this be put forward please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, down in front.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on, hold on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD WARSHAW, CITY MANAGER, MIAMI, FLORIDA: I'm equally proud now to have the great honor to introduce to you a man of great integrity and character and honor, and someone who demonstrates everyday on a continual basis that he's committed to make Miami a better place, that he has a passion to make Miami a better place for us. Ladies and gentlemen, won't you please join me in welcoming the honorable mayor of the great city of Miami, Joe Carollo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAROLLO: I hope that, in the days to come, you will be remembering that those were the words of city manager Warshaw about this mayor only a year ago.

On April 26, last Wednesday, at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon, I had delivered to the office of the city manager at the administration building downtown the following letter:

"Dear Mr. Warshaw, as you know, it is my sworn duty and civic responsibility as the mayor of the city of Miami to ensure that all the city's affairs are governed in a manner that promote and encourage the public trust.

"On March 17, 2000, I asked you to my office to discuss numerous matters that have caused me to seriously doubt your effectiveness as the manager of the city of Miami. The answers you provided to me and my chief of staff, Ronald Lieberman (ph), did not produce a level of comfort or confidence. At that time, I placed you on probation for a period of 30 days. I made it very clear to you at this meeting that I was prepared to terminate you even though you believed then as you do now that you have the necessary votes in the city commission to override your termination. As you recall, your termination was imminent unless there was a complete turnaround and you provided me with truthful answers. As of today, this still has not occurred.

"Since September of last year, there has been a cloud of uncertainty regarding your ability to be the city's top appointed administrator, evidenced by your unconscionable dealings with accountant Ronald Stern (ph). This is the same Mr. Stern who served as the chief financial adviser for the Miami Police relief and pension fund and who was accused of stealing $1.3 million from the fund he administered. Your relationship with Mr. Stern gave the appearance of being mutual beneficial. It freely allowed for the payment of Florida Panther tickets in the amount of $16,775 by Mr. Stern, which was wrongfully charged to the American Express card issued to you by the fund solely to cover fund-related expenses. In a letter to me dated September 27, 1999, you claimed the said charges were repaid in full. However, to date, you have been unable to provide clear and concise proof supporting your claim of repayment.

"In order to demonstrate to this office and the general public ironclad assurance that your dealings with Mr. Sterns were above reproach, please provide the following information by 6:30 today: A copy of the canceled checks that support your claim that Mr. Stern was repaid the $16,775 that he paid to the pension fund on your behalf; copies of all the invoices billed to the American Express card issued to you by "Do the Right Thing" program, and copies of all your canceled checks that substantiate your claim that these expenditures have been satisfied.

"Mr. Warshaw, your dealings with Mr. Stern have resulted in an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office, causing this city undue embarrassment. As city manager, your position to manage the high level of integrity and professionalism. Your relationship with Mr. Stern as well as your extravagant and unethical use of the American Express credit card issued to you by the "Do the Right Thing" program has created lingering doubts as to your understanding of the parameters of your responsibilities. I hereby instruct you to report to me at my City Hall office at 6:30 p.m. today."

Signed, Joe Carollo, mayor.

Approximately an hour after this letter was delivered to Mr. Warshaw the Wednesday before he was fired, my office received a phone call from someone that I have a lot to be thankful to, someone that I care a lot about that wanted to see me. This individual came to my office to state to me that he has received a phone call from Mr. Donald Warshaw than stated that if I would fire him, that he was going to take me out, that he was going to bring criminal charges against me, that I was going to lose my city pension, that I was going to be taken out as mayor of this city. He stated that he was going to accuse me of trying to investigate illegally and use the police department to investigate illegally political enemies.

There were so many other false allegations that were delivered to me. And ladies and gentlemen, I will tell you what I told my friend, that I was not going to be a mayor that was going to be a mayor that was going to be on his knees, that I was not going to be a mayor that was going to be a puppet mayor, and that this mayor was not going to let himself be blackmailed or extorted.

HEMMER: Mayor Joe Carollo is speaking now to reporters in Miami, Florida where the fallout and war of words continues. This after the Elian Gonzalez matter and the raid on that home a week and a half ago. You may remember last week that the city manager, Donald Warshaw, was fired by Joe Carollo. The next day, the police chief said he will go into early retirement. As the war of words continues, we'll let you know what's happening out of southern Florida.

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