On the eve of the grand opening for the West 12th Avenue campaign headquarters he shares with three of the four council incumbents (more on that later) on the November Hialeah elections, there appears to be a question as to whether Hialeah Alcaldito Carlos Hernandez can even run in the mayoral race.
Oh, Hernandez qualified by Friday's deadline. Problem is, he forgot to resign his position as councilman, the seat to which he was elected and the reason why he became the alcaldito when former mayor Julio Robaina resigned to run for the county job, which he failed to get. According to the much-discussed "Resign to Run" state law, he has to resign the seat at least 10 days before he qualifies (though he can leave Oct. 31; his mentor/master Robaina made his exit effective the day before the primary). Former Mayor Raul Martinez, who did really qualify for the mayor's race along with former State Sen. Rudy Garcia, asked about it at City Hall when he filed his documents. I would have loved to be there to see the look on City Clerk David Concepcion's face when Martinez -- who said he went to court over the issue in 1981 -- immediately called City Attorney Bill Groddnick to confirm that Hernandez was required to resign to run. But Groddnick tap-danced instead.
He danced with me, too, quoting a city charter chapter that holds that Hernandez did not have to resign from a seat he no longer held. "He is the mayor," Grodnick said. "This was a permanent vacancy. When Julio Robaina resigned, he automatically became the mayor. Not acting mayor. Not temporary mayor. He became mayor."
But Ladra is pretty sure that if Hernandez had decided not to run for mayor now and wanted his bird-in-hand council seat back, he would have a right to his elected seat, despite what the city attorney says. Because the charter is sort of vague when it says the mayor's permanent "vacancy shall be filled with the person holding the office of council president, who shall exercise all authority of the office of mayor and shall perform the duties and assume the responsibilities of that office and shall become mayor and serve out only that portion of the former mayor's term that precedes the next regularly scheduled municipal election." Did you catch only that portion? Upon which time, the council president could, one presume, return to his rightfully-elected post. Especially since Interim Councilman Pablito "Huh" Hernandez is a temporary appointment, according to the city charter (yes, Bill, see how I can read it, too). Because, the very next chapter says that if a permanent vacancy results from "death, resignation, recall, court order or other lawful action" then he is appointed as councilman. But since Hernandez never resigned, then he is acting councilman. And since Hernandez never resigned his council seat, what's to stop him from getting it back after he loses in November? Which is exactly the kind of backdoor safety net the state legislature wanted to end that led to the state law, which last time Ladra checked, supersedes municipal ordinances.
Ladra thinks that Hernandez, who has proven already to be not so bright, simply messed up. And Grodnick, who has proven already to be not so honest, is simply covering up. In fact, it's sorta his job. The city attorney has to protect the city's best interest, that includes the mayor du jour. But Grodnick got caught with his pants down (that's how it is apparently officially said around these parts) and now is pointing at the ceiling so you don't look at his skinny, bare thighs. Well, don't blame me Bill if I try to get a second opinion from some real attorneys who will defend the law and the process, not the politician. Is there a constitutional attorney in the house? Ladra needs an independent legal opinion. Stay tuned to the latest plot twist in As Hialeah Churns.
Because this also presents an interesting possible scenario. Say Hernandez cannot run, that his qualification, without that resignation, is null and void. (No, really. Go ahead and say it out loud. It feels good, right?). He has to be gone from the 4th floor office by Nov. 1, but he can go back to being a councilman after either Garcia or Martinez are elected. Because, c'mon, who is George "Who?" Castro, and with a name like that how can he expect to get elected to anything in Hialeah, of all places? Actually, it could be fun to see Hernandez up there with either of the two -- though Martinez makes it much more merry. Then, there's the domino effect: No race in Pablito's prestado Group 6 seat and he and the candidates who qualified to challenge him -- former Hialeah water department customer service employee "Ditzy" Daisy Castellanos and Sweetwater Mayor Manny Marono's former chief of staff Frank "Sinatra" Lago, whose blue eyes and GQ looks are a political operative's dream -- could be up a campaign without a ballot. Could Lago sue if this moron mayor's mistake costs him his first and oh-so-coveted elected office? This seat is his for the taking and he might be a little upset if he's left out of the race after he resigned his $70,000 a year job in Sweetwater to run. And after talking with him for a bit Friday, and watching him play well with others (more on that later), Ladra may be a little upset, too. Even though I still don't like all his past political pals, Lago -- who lost a bid in May to replace Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban Bovo in the state legislature -- looks more and more like a good turn for Hialeah, especially in that race.
But the disappointment, I admit, would not be big enough to overshadow the pure joy it will give Ladra to see Hernandez shut out of the mayor's race (read: Robaina shut out of City Hall).