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Florida mayor says DeSantis left him out of meeting

Hialeah's mayor, Carlos Hernandez, has been critical of DeSantis’ response to the pandemic.

MIAMI — The mayor of Hialeah, the second-largest city in Miami-Dade County, said Tuesday that he was denied entry to a roundtable that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held with several city mayors to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeSantis announced plans Tuesday morning for the 1 p.m. in-person roundtable at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami, and members of his staff contacted the mayors of several cities in Miami-Dade County to invite them to the meeting. Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez said he didn’t receive an invitation, but Miami Mayor Francis Suarez informed him the roundtable was taking place.

When Hernandez tried to walk in, he told the Miami Herald, a member of the governor’s staff told him he wasn’t invited and couldn’t enter.

“I think it’s childish on behalf of the governor to not invite the mayor of the sixth-largest city in the state and the second-largest city in the county,” Hernandez said. “It’s a lack of respect to the citizens of Hialeah.”

Hernandez has been critical of DeSantis’ response to the pandemic. Last month, after the governor mentioned Hialeah as a city with a high rate of positive coronavirus tests, Hernandez shot back that his city has received “no help” from the governor.

“If he’s got a personal issue with me, I don’t know,” Hernandez said Tuesday. “It shows that he’s a spoiled child.”

The roundtable featured DeSantis, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and the mayors of six cities: Miami, Miami Gardens and Miami Beach — the first-, second- and fourth-largest cities in the county by population — as well as Doral, Pinecrest and Bal Harbour.

After the roundtable concluded, DeSantis said in response to a reporter’s question that he didn’t know why the Hialeah mayor hadn’t been invited.

“I wasn’t personally the one that invited the folks,” DeSantis said, adding that he would be “happy to meet with” Hernandez.

“Hialeah is a great town,” he said. “I know they’ve had a tough go with this outbreak for a long time.”

In a press release, Hernandez criticized not only DeSantis but also Gimenez, the county mayor. The roundtable was held in the county’s government center.

“There is no justification for what occurred today and even less so by the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez, that allowed for this to happen, in his office,” Hernandez said. “The inferiority complex of both these elected officials overpowers any intent that they may have to save their community.”

A spokeswoman for Gimenez, Patty Abril, told the Herald the governor’s staff decided on the invitations.

“It’s more a question for DeSantis’ staff, but I believe the intention was to have a cross-section of municipalities, both large and small,” Abril said in an email. “Mayor Gimenez was asked to provide the space for the meeting late yesterday.”

DeSantis spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferré did not respond to a request for comment.

Hernandez, like DeSantis and Gimenez, is a registered Republican, though his mayoral seat is non-partisan.

The largely working-class community of Hialeah is among the hardest-hit in the state by the pandemic, with 9,800 cases reported as of Tuesday, according to the state’s daily COVID-19 report.

Hialeah is the largest majority-Hispanic community in Florida, and its foreign-born population is among the highest for any city in the United States. Of that population, 82% are Cuban-American.

The mayor of Bal Harbour, a seaside village of about 2,500 residents, said he was invited to Tuesday’s roundtable. According to Tuesday’s state report, the village has had 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The mayors of Miami, Miami Beach, Miami Gardens, Doral and Pinecrest also told the Miami Herald they received invitations Tuesday.

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