Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Orlando Mayor changes staff

"Source: Orlando Sentinel 05/23/2007
A day after Orlando backed a $1.1 billion downtown venue package, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer on Tuesday reshuffled some of his top political posts.

Chief of Staff Cheryl Henry, a chief architect of the financing plan to build a new arena and performing-arts center and upgrade the Citrus Bowl, will step down June 1 to take a corporate lobbyist post with Ruth's Chris Steak House Inc.

Former top city staffer Joe Robinson will replace Henry, serving again as one of the mayor's key lieutenants. As before, Robinson will spearhead Orlando anti-crime efforts. Former press chief Brie Turek will step into the deputy chief of staff slot, an open position.

Dyer said in a statement that Henry, 33, was pivotal to his team, especially in pushing the venues. But the mayor does not see her departure as hindering a final effort to secure political support for the complex venue financing, Turek said.

While City Council members voted nearly unanimously Monday to approve a series of deals for the proposed facilities, a final financing agreement must still be approved by city and Orange County leaders this summer. When interest on loans is paid off over 30 years in the proposed venue deal, the final cost could top $1.8 billion.

Another wrench in the plans could come from state lawmakers, who are considering property-tax overhauls in a special session next month.

Now Robinson, 48, and Turek, 26, will help secure Dyer's final venue deal. Robinson retired as an Orlando police captain and Dyer's deputy chief of staff in January 2006. He then went to work as chief of staff for Orlando venture capitalist Frank L. Amodeo and his AQMI Strategy Corp.

The company provided consulting services to a 70-company equity firm Amodeo helped found and fund, Mirabilis Ventures Inc. In May 2006, Robinson and fellow AQMI contractor Kevin Billings of Maitland were among several men detained by authorities for nine days in the west African country of the Congo, where they were sent by Amodeo to provide security and political consulting services to a presidential candidate.

Earlier this year, Mirabilis laid off more than 100 workers and shut down numerous affiliated companies. In March, the Orlando Sentinel disclosed that Mirabilis Ventures was under investigation by a federal grand jury in Orlando and that prosecutors had issued more than 100 subpoenas for witnesses and records involving several payroll and human-resource outsourcing businesses controlled or affiliated with Mirabilis, Amodeo or Amodeo-controlled companies.
During the past few months, several top associates of Amodeo's left the company, including Robinson. Dyer's new chief of staff said, "there's no connection with me at all" to the companies in the federal probe. "

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