UPDATED: Neal DeJesus Resigning From Elected Seat
UPDATED: On the same day, Broward Fire Chief Joseph Lello announced his retirement, I've confirmed. Lello is expected to remain in office until early January. Sources say that DeJesus is expected to be named Lello's replacement as fire chief.
Manager Bruce Loucks said that DeJesus told him that he was leaving office. Loucks said he was waiting on DeJesus' letter of resignation, which he said he expected shortly.
DeJesus also serves as chairman of the Broward County Ethics Commission, which recently hammered out a reform package that is going before voters in November. His plans for that position aren't known, but sources say he has said he is "pursuing other opportunities."
NEW: He will hold his seat, say sources, until November 2, and a special election will be held that day to fill his seat.
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"I'm shocked," said Commissioner John Sims, who has publicly battled DeJesus on multiple occasions. "He doesn't seem like a guy that would do that."
It has been rumored for months that DeJesus, who is also a preacher, might be named Broward County's next fire chief. He has developed a strong relationship with Sheriff Al Lamberti and handled negotiations between the sheriff and the firefighters' union recently. I asked DeJesus about
the rumors in July, and while he said he had been offered no position, he made it clear that he would strongly consider taking the job if it came his way and that he would resign his Cooper City seat if he became fire chief.
"Regardless of the legal answer, I don't think [keeping both positions] would pass the smell test," he told me. "If the offer was made -- and there's a lot of presumption here, because he has a fire chief -- but if I was the right guy and it was the right position for me, I don't believe it would be appropriate for me to remain as a city official because [Cooper City] has a contract with BSO. It doesn't pass the smell test, and it wouldn't be the right thing to do. I would have to step down."
I asked BSO if DeJesus was being hired and Lamberti spokesman Jim Leljedal emailed back, "We're not prepared to discuss personnel issues in the media at this time."
How's that for responsive and transparent? Good thing Lamberti has hired one of the largest public relations staffs on taxpayers' money I've ever seen. Otherwise someone might have misspelled "not prepared."
DeJesus was elected in 2008 and has more than two years left in his term, which expires in November 2012. The city is already in the process of trying to fill DeJesus' soon-to-be-vacant seat. UPDATED: While there was talk of an appointment, sources say that DeJesus will hold his seat until Election Day, November 2. City officials have already produced
a public notice to advertise the special election that will be held for DeJesus' seat on November 2 at the time of the general election. Qualifying for candidates begins at noon on September 7 and ends at noon the following day.
I have questions in to DeJesus, BSO, and others and will update.
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