North Miami - NMB

Parks chief sold jerseys from his company to city football team. Now he’s on leave

North Miami’s parks and recreation director wasn’t disciplined last year after a police investigation found he had committed ethics violations by selling jerseys from his personal company to a city-funded football team.

But now, after the details spilled into public view at last week’s City Council meeting, Derrick Corker has been placed on paid administrative leave “until further notice,” a city spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.

The decision was made Monday to place Corker on leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, according to Councilman Scott Galvin, who said he spoke to interim manager Arthur Sorey on the matter.

Galvin said he hopes the ethics commission can review the allegations quickly.

“Ethics investigations can take months, and this isn’t something we should have dangling over our head for months,” Galvin said.

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Parents and officials involved in the North Miami Jaguars football and cheer program complained that Corker inserted himself in a bid process for new uniforms after the team was asked to change its name from the Redskins, which is a slur for Native Americans, to the Jaguars.

Corker was responsible for administering a $42,000 grant from the city for the uniforms. But he went further, recommending that a company he selected, Quick Prints, of Plantation, receive the bid. The owner of that company, Williamsen Exemar, insisted last week that he paid Corker no money for steering the contract his way.

Meanwhile, officials in the football program claim that Corker sold jerseys and other apparel directly to parents from his own company, El Jefe 7NINE. The company’s distinctive “79” logo with a lion’s head between the numbers appeared on some of the team’s jerseys last season.

City officials have not responded to detailed questions from the Herald, including why Corker wasn’t placed on leave during the police investigation or why he wasn’t disciplined after administrative violations were found. Larry Spring, the city manager at the time who was fired without cause in January, also has not responded to requests for comment.

North Miami police officials also have not explained why the investigation into Corker’s conduct, which concluded in August, didn’t include an interview with Corker himself. Police concluded that Corker had not acted criminally.

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Corker did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Aaron Leibowitz is a municipal government reporter for the Miami Herald. He writes about local politics in every city, village and town in Miami-Dade County and sometimes beyond.
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