Former Hialeah councilman Alex Morales, who was director at the Hialeah Housing Authority until he was fired under a political cloud in 2009 and is an avid critic of the former mayor and his administration, did what some close to him expected on Monday: He filed documents as a candidate for the council seat being vacated by Jose "Pepe" Yedra, who is termed out.
Morales, who also has a pending defamation lawsuit against former mayor and county mayoral candidate Julio Robaina, told Ladra he "never thought I would run again" Monday afternoon, shortly after presenting his candidacy and right before opening his campaign bank account. He did not immediately seek re-election because he could not get anything more with the new slate. "I wasn't able to do any more things because the other counsel members didn't want to support me," he said. "So I thought it was time to move on." But he has been working lately in the political background more and more.
He is the fourth candidate to sign up for the seat. Fernando Alvarez, a one-time chief of staff to former Councilwoman Cindy Miel who ran against Yedra in 2007 (85 to 15 percent), was the first to file documents with the city clerk's office on Jan. 6. He has reportedly raised about $2,150. Alvarez is a foe of the Robaina faction, which Ladra thinks is everyone or almost everyone on the council, so that could be why Robaina friendly Ramiro Sicre, chairman elect of the Hialeah Chamber of Commerce and director of the Hialeah Optimist Club, put his name in the ring a few days later. Naturally, being a Robaina gang member, he has the most money already: $8,000. The third candidate is someone named Tony Vega who could be another Robaina critic. So it's 3 to 1.
Though the others had a head start on the campaign, Morales doesn't just have much more name recognition on his side. He has a secret weapon: Raul Martinez. The former and possible future Hialeah mayor (he is running for the seat in the November election) is a Morales ally, a bond strengthened in recent weeks as both have worked to help former county commissioner Carlos Gimenez win the county mayor's race. He will also likely count on the support of the somewhat politically influential fire union and former police Chief Rolando Bolanos and his son, Danny Bolanos, a housing authority employee who is openly supporting Gimenez and has to watch his back because Ladra is sure they want to fire him, too, for political reasons.
Morales was apparently doing a pretty bang up job in 2009. He was able to lobby the board for a new, more lucrative contract even though he still had two years left on the old one. But that same year, he apparently didn't play along with HHA board chairman Julio Ponce (who now has Morales' job at a salary of $125,000 a year plus a $900 monthly car allowance and $8,000 expense account... hmmmmm). Like Francisco Alvarado said in his New Times blog, it pays to be Julito's yes man and ballot seeker (http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2011/05/julio_robaina_crony_gets_12500.php). Ponce, a former council member as well (what is it with all these recycled candidates?), had apparently asked him "to do things I did not think I should be doing." We think Ponce -- who also chairs a PAC to support whatever Robaina wants and spend thousands of dollars in "entertainment" and "miscellaneous" credit card expenses that could very well be visits to PT's Showclub for all we know -- asked him to help some candidates, since he has a long history of absentee ballot collecting within the housing agency, which is always good for about 3,000 votes. Then, Robaina, as mayor of Hialeah, replaced the four board members who voted to approve the new proposed Morales contract with four new board members (who would do his bidding, we surmise) on Nov. 10. Three days later, that board suspended Morales and fired him "without cause" within a month. The reasons given were undistributed vouchers and the potential loss of federal funding, which Morales had allegedly not warned the administration about, but he also had not yet missed his deadline so maybe it was not such a dire thing. Later, the mayor said something at a public meeting about his abusing his "flex time", which led to the defamation suit that is ongoing. (Court records show that Robaina's attorney filed a "certificate of counsel regarding a motion for judgement" on none other than May 24, election day.)
Yeah, it stinks of politics. Why would Morales want to go back into that den?
"These people have destroyed this place," Morales told Ladra on Monday. "They destroyed what it took decades to build. And we have to bring it back."
We? No, he does not have multiple personalities (that we could tell, anyway). He is likely referring to the other gang (these people are like the Latin Kings and the Miami B-Boys), which includes Martinez, of course, and we suspect Danny Bolanos, who lost a race in 2009 but will likely again jump in because the water is fine. (Even if the pools in the city are closed).