U.S. Senator Marco Rubio's former campaign manager, local GOP wunderboy Jose Mallea, may have joined the Carlos Gimenez For Mayor team late in the game, but his plays were apparently pivotal in the win.
Mallea, 34, was introduced Monday to department directors at the 3 p.m. meeting as the new mayor's new chief of staff. Wonder how that makes former Gov. Jeb Bush, who stumped for former Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina in the close mayoral race, feel. After all, Mallea -- who at one point, records show, lived in a West Hialeah townhouse where his mother is still listed -- worked for dad George Bush's team once, as associate director for the White House Liaison at State Department. Public records show a 2004 lien on him and three other residents of his Courthouse High Rise condo in Arlington, Va.
But he has local roots, too: The former chief of staff for ex Miami Mayor Manny Diaz is also facing a foreclosure lawsuit on a little 2-bedroom, 1-bath home on 13th street in the Shenandoah neighborhood of Miami that he bought for $290,000 with someone named Helena Poleo in 2008. It was filed in April of 2010. (The home's assessed and market value has dropped from $244,000 in 2009 to $160,000 last year).
Ladra could not reach Mallea late Monday when she got the word that he had joined the mayor's office. We sent him a message of congratulations on facebook and asked him to call so we could get a little more background and info, but we will try again tomorrow. What we have reported so far was gleaned from public records, like the property info and the lawsuit, and from recollection of previously published accounts.
In fact, when we call tomorrow, we'll get a list of all the Gimenez staffers so far, which from what we hear also includes his former district 7 commission aides Frank Balzebre and Insom Kim. There also may be a place somewhere for Gimenez' old colleague, former Miami City Manager Edward Marquez, who specializes in airport, transportation, and general government financings and most recently worked as lead project manager for First Southwest Company, for clients such as the Miami International Airport; Miami-Dade Expressway Authority; Riviera Beach Community Redevelopment Agency; the counties of Broward and Palm Beach, the City of Naples and the Village of Key Biscayne. Before going to the city of Miami, Marquez worked for 20 years in different capacities at the county, leaving when he was the finance director. And in 2003 and 2004, Marquez took a one-year leave of absence from First Southwest to serve as Miami-Dade Schools CFO, pinch hitting, if you will, with its financial challenges.
Also joining the Gimenez team, we hear, is Les Pantin, son of Leslie and Martha Pantin, a 25-year-old recent college grad that has reportedly impressed some county staffers with his eager attitude and fast learning. Pantin, whose father is a longtime political operative who has worked with Julio Gonzalez Rebull among others (JGR worked on the rival Robaina campaign), earned $750 for consulting in June on the Gimenez campaign, according to the financial report. He may be the lowest paid of the multiple consultants, so maybe the job is his reward. But I don't know if the county has done his background check yet and if the mayor is going to let a little pot smoking change his mind when they do. Because, according to public records through the county clerk's website, Les Pantin was arrested for misdemeanor cannibus possession in 2009, though it seems it was never prosecuted. And Ladra -- who admits freely to inhaling as long as we are not deciding public policy right after -- is not judging anyone here by any means. She can't. But she don't work for the mayor either. Don't kill the messenger, people. It's not like nobody else was going to find this out. And maybe we can be transparent enough and not so hypocritical that this kind of thing won't matter. As long as he doesn't get everyone on the 29th floor buzzed at budget crunch time.
While we applaud Gimenez's "lead by example" move to slash his own $300,000+ salary in half, the standing ovation will have to wait until we find out how much standing room is left in his office and how much his expanding staff will cost in pay and benefits. Ladra is pretty sure it won't be what many saw as outrageous salaries and raises given by former mayor Carlos Alvarez to his inner circle, one of the main reasons behind his recall in March. But we -- and our new mayor, who is way smarter than I in these things -- would be foolish not to be paying attention.
Public records requests will be filed in the morning to add it all up and find out who else is waiting in the wings. Let's see how much the new mayor likes Ladra now.