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Shake-up in Miami-Dade commission chairman's office


Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Jean Monestime has dismissed his chief of staff, Gerard Philippeaux, as Monestime prepares for the final year in his two-year term as presiding officer of the 13-member board. 

There was no explanation offered for Philippeaux's firing, which was officially carried out by a blunt letter from Monestime to Philippeaux on Monday.

"I want to sincerely thank you for your committed service to the residents of District 2 and the Office of the Chair," Monestime wrote. "Effective immediately, you are placed on administrative leave and should no longer report to work."

The letter said Philippeaux's last day on the payroll would be Nov. 20, and invited him to seek other opportunities within county government. "I wish you success in your future endeavors," Monestime concluded. 

In a statement, Monestime called the commission veteran a "consummate professional" and said "the separation was on good terms." Philippeaux, who has worked for Commissioner Audrey Edmonson and former commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler, said "I had a lot of fun for the past 14 years. I have no regrets."

The shake-up comes after a year of ups and downs for Monestime, the commission's first Haitian-American chairman who is also seen as a potential Congressional candidate should Frederica Wilson retire from her seat in the 24th District

Last month, Monestime's saw his choice to run a transportation board he chairs rejected by his fellow board members. The outmaneuvering followed Monestime taking political fire for insisting he would recommend the finalist to run the Metropolitan Planning Organization transportation board, rather than allowing the MPO members to pick from the top three.

Monestime has also taken some heat for cracking down on when the public can address commissioners during their twice-monthly meetings. After presiding over a two-month meeting (which began the morning of June 30 and ended in the wee hours of July 1), Monestime announced he would begin enforcing commission rules barring comments on many items that had already been discussed by a commission committee. 

After winning the chairman's post in November 2014, Monestime has also used his authority for a sweeping remake of the committee system, which now more closely follows how the county budget is organized. And he created a Chairman's Council for Prosperity Initiatives, which was the springboard for legislation that established new financial help for home-buyers, prompted Miami-Dade to drop questions about criminal background in employment applications and a requires all proposed ordinances be analyzed for "social equity" consequences. 

In his statement, Monestime said of Philippeaux: "Gerard is the consummate professional. I thank him for his contributions to District 2 and to the Office of the Chair. I am pleased that the separation was on good terms, and I wish him well in his future endeavors."