One month before two Fort Lauderdale fishermen rescued Elian Gonzalez on Thanksgiving Day, his great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, was looking for a job and making ends meet by doing auto body work out of his Little Havana home.
A little more than two months after Lazaro Gonzalez became Elian's caretaker in the United States, he did not have to look for work anymore. He landed a job in the body shop of a car dealership owned by a director of the Cuban American National Foundation, the anti-Castro lobbying group that is fighting to keep Elian in the United States.
Before Elian's arrival, Gonzalez, 49, applied for a job repairing buses at the Miami-Dade School District.
A review of his application shows large gaps in his work history, and interviews with previous supervisors reveal inconsistencies with what he wrote on his application.
Gonzalez also stated on that application that he had never been found guilty of "a criminal offense other than a minor traffic violation, although he had twice been found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The application form specifies that "DUI is NOT a minor traffic violation"
Contacted Tuesday, family spokesman Armando Gutierrez said Gonzalez was too busy and distraught over the recent hospitalization of his daughter, Marisleysis, to comment.
The Sun-Sentinel again requested an interview with Gonzalez on Wednesday, but Gutierrez said he was not available to the media and referred questions to family attorney Kendall Coffey.
Coffey said he did not understand how questions about Gonzalez's work history could be relevant to his bid to gain custody of the child.
He said he was preparing an appeals brief late Wednesday and could not talk to Gonzalez to ask him those questions.
Coffey said Gonzalez's work history, and his ability to support Elian, would become relevant if and when the battle for custody of Elian gets to family court.
"If the process goes forward we would love for an appropriate forum,"Coffey said. "We would welcome a forum where anyone could put forward any questions that are relevant. A phone interview is not that forum. Lazaro is prepared to answer these questions anytime."
Miami-Dade School District records show that Gonzalez applied for a position as a bus mechanic in October - about a month before Elian arrived - but was not hired. In interviews with the Sun-Sentinel, supervisors at two of the three previous jobs Gonzalez listed on his application said he did not work with them as long as he claimed.
Gonzalez wrote in his application that he worked at Waste Management, his last job listed, for one year., from 1998 to 1999. He did not list specific months of employment.
"He did not work here that long," said Tony Ceglia, a manager at the northwest Miami-Dade job site and the person whom Gonzalez listed as his direct supervisor. "He was here less than a week. That was before all this Elian Gonzalez stuff."
Ceglia said Gonzalez applied as a mechanic, but did not meet the job requirements and left shortly after he was hired. He referred all other questions to the company's human resources department. A representative of that department said the company would not say anything without authorization from Gonzalez.
When asked about those inconsistencies, Gutierrez replied: "I can't comment on that. Go ask those questions to Fidel's people."
Before working at Waste Management, Gonzalez worked as a painter at Richard Bertram Inc., a yacht-building company. On his school district application, Gonzalez claimed he worked there from 1995 to 1998. But his supervisor at Bertram said Gonzalez worked there for six months at the most, in 1995 or 1996.
"We had a big boat somebody needed fast and we hired him for a few months," said Cecilio Martin, a Bertram supervisor for 35 years. "It took us about four months to go through (the boat), but (after that) we did not have any more work coming in so we had to let him go."
Martin characterized Gonzalez as a nice guy and a good worker. After he stopped working for the company, Martin said Gonzalez came by the company once or twice to say hello.
He also said Gonzalez did some body shop work out of his home, and fixed Martin's car after a crash.
That was one of the last times he saw him, he said.
"But, with so much stuff on TV, we remembered" he had worked with us, Martin said.
In the October application to the school district, Gonzalez was asked if he had ever been found guilty of a crime, including DUI He checked the "no" box, even though state Department of Motor Vehicle records show that he was found guilty of DUI in 1991 and 1997.
After the most recent conviction, Gonzalez was sentenced to 12 months probation and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service, attend a substance-abuse program and pay an $884 fine, Miami-Dade court records show.
Gonzalez's current employer, Metro Ford owner Lombardo Perez Sr., said he wasn't concerned about Gonzalez's work history, only whether he could "do the job right.
He hired Gonzalez two to three months ago, after hearing that the man who was battling to keep Elian in the country needed a job. He said Gonzalez comes to work whenever he can and is paid only when he does.
"I found out he had experience in body shop work, and I took it upon myself to give him work and a flexible work arrangement," said Perez, a director of the Cuban American National Foundation who contributes up to $100,000 a year to the foundation and its causes. "For me it is a pleasure to be able to help him and give him certain flexibility."
Gonzalez's supervisor at Metro, who would not give his name, said Gonzalez had not been around for at least two weeks.
His co-workers say he rarely works because of the battle for Elian.
Lombardo Perez Jr., Metro's general manager, said Gonzalez has been on "indefinite leave' since he was hired so he can resolve some personal issues."
"He was hired two to three months ago. I don't know the exact date," Perez Jr. said,
Staff Researcher Patti Parker and Staff Writer Ellis Berger contributed to this report.Jose Dante Parra Herrera can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or at 305-810-5005.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times