Following Mike Fernandez departure, another high-ranking GOP Hispanic leader cuts ties with Rick Scott

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Republican Miami-Dade Expressway Authority board member Gonzalo Sanabria resigned today from his appointed post in protest of the “disparaging and disrespectful” treatment of Gov. Rick Scott’s former finance co-chair Mike Fernandez.

“Since he has been treated in such a disparaging and disrespectful manner by your [campaign] staff and ignored in his advice,” Sanabria wrote to Scott’s staff in an email obtained by the Miami Herald, “it is obvious that there is a great deal of dysfunction and disconnection of which I want to have no part nor can I render my support any longer as you are governing from a weak and flawed platform.”

Fernandez’s departure last week came after sending three emails, also reported by the Herald/Times, raised concerns about the judgment of Scott’s campaign advisers, quality of ads, and the failure of Scott’s Hispanic outreach.

Fernandez also complained about being “cut off” from the governor, as well as accusing unnamed campaign aides of aping Mexican accents in front of his associate.

Although they would not go into detail, the campaign denies the incident happened.

Fernandez, a resident of Coral Gables, is a billionaire health-care entrepreneur who arrived in America as a poor young Cuban — the perfect representation of a successful, pro-business advocate Scott needed to help him in the eyes of Hispanic voters.

One of Fernandez’s recommendations was Scott to re-appoint Sanabria to the board of MDX. Sanabria served on the MDX board under both Govs. Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush.

MDX oversees the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, responsible for several main highways, the Airport Expressway, Dolphin and Gratigny Expressways

“The Hispanic Community of South Florida is a key component of this great State’s vibrant socio-political fabric and treating us as you have is a grave mistake as it pains me to tell you what you will find out to the chagrin of us loyal Republicans,” Sanabria wrote. “Good Luck Governor, I’m not a fan any longer.”

Sanabria is a 65-year-old investor and real estate broker who also lives in Coral Gables, and passed his resignation email along to the Miami Herald.

Sanabria is also resigning his leadership position in the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County. Republicans in 28 precincts voted for him in 2012 to serve as a Republican Committeeman.

“I resigned today from that post sending my resignation effective immediately to Nelson Diaz, Dade GOP Chair, stating that I could not support the Governor,” Sanabria said.

In a statement issued shortly afterward, Scott Communications Director Frank Collins said that Sanabria’s departure actually stems from an earlier phone call, where the MDX board member was told he would be replaced on the commission. 

“We called Mr. Sanabria just after 11 AM today to let him know that he would not be reappointed to the MDX Board due to his votes to raise toll fees on the people of Miami-Dade,” Collins said. 

“Mr. Sanabria, an appointee of the previous administration, later sent an email upset about not being reappointed. Our administration is focused on lowering the cost of living for Florida families and the Governor’s new MDX appointee, Javier Vazquez, is committed to this goal.” 

In a return volley, Joshua Karp of the Florida Democratic Party issued a return statement saying Scott’s actions (and the accusations that Sanabria was lying) amounted to another slap in the face for the Latino community:

“Yet again, it looks like Rick Scott is telling a prominent Hispanic Republican that he is lying,” Karp said. “The Rick Scott team’s arrogant and dismissive behavior this week is disrespectful to all Floridians — and shows how dysfunctional his campaign really is.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.