Daniel Alfonso is a longtime government employee and Army sergeant. But amazingly, he is also a survivor of Miami’s city commission meetings. What does that mean? Listen to the incredible story.
Q: Is it a different experience being in the council meeting room–or is basically what you see on TV what it’s like in real life?
A: When I’m sitting on that dais, you actually see the faces of all the elected officials. You see the reactions. You see the public because your peripheral vision sees the entire room. When you’re looking at it on TV, you’re only capturing the images of the camera at that particular moment.
Q: Last April, I saw a wild thing at your city commission meeting: the commissioners tried to fire you! I know this is Florida and the threshold for something being shocking is fairly high…how shocked were you?
A: I was a little surprised but I wouldn’t say “shocked.” The meeting that took place that day was a difficult one. What led up to it was that I had terminated an employee who I believed had done something wrong. That employee had some ties to the community and there was a number of people that came out in support. I never [publicly] disclosed the reasoning for the termination because I didn’t need to add insult to injury.
Q: While this is going on, you are staring straight ahead. But behind you is this striking scene of two dozen city employees standing silently behind you. Did you notice what was going on with them?
A: Initially I did not. That day, [my wife] was watching that portion and she sent me a text. She just said to me, “why don’t you get up and come home?”
A: I took a moment to look around and I realized that I had pretty much my entire senior staff–even the police union president–was standing next to me. And he’s a person we definitely have had differences with. I felt pretty good about that. So I responded to my wife, “look at all these people standing behind me. I can’t.”
Q: At this point, the mayor comes into the room. He is not amused. Basically, he said, “if you fire Danny, I’ll veto it. If you override me, I’ll just hire him again.” Were you thinking, “god bless this man for sticking up for me?”
A: That was an incredible moment as well. The mayor really came out and supported the job I’ve been doing and supported me tremendously that day. I was actually impressed by how strongly he felt about keeping me for the rest of his term.
Q: At the end of this ordeal, Commissioner Ken Russell said, “this is your come-to-Jesus moment with the commission.” Danny, did you find Jesus in that commission meeting?
A: [Laughs] I’m a religious person and I found Jesus long before that day!
Q: Ha! Do you think that the commission handled this in the best way–in a public meeting?
A: That’s what we in our position expose ourself to. Would I prefer to have a private discussion with each commissioner individually? Yes. But this is the way our elected officials decided to have this discussion.
Follow City Manager Daniel Alfonso on Twitter: @DJA1968