Although the county has more than 500 vacant budgeted positions — salaries that are never collected though the expenditures are reflected in the 2014-2015 budget — Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has laid off almost two dozen county employees so far this year.
These are reportedly only the first “heads to roll” in an expected employee purge that some say is necessary and others say is retaliatory — and could arguably be both.
The 21 pink slips have been in the last two months, the mayor said, and that was before commissioners voted to override the mayor’s veto and restore the 5% they had been taking from employees for five years back to their paychecks, a move that widened the budget gap even more — from $42 or $44 to about $70 million, depending on the source cited — and caused the mayor to threaten further layoffs.
And while Ladra agrees with some who say that county government could use a little streamline surgery — do we really need five deputy mayors, 12 mayoral aides and two port directors? — sources close to County Hall say that at least some of the job cuts may not have been necessary. They suggested that at least some of the employees in five of the 26 departments — audit and management, community information and outreach, and police support personnel — are only being fired so the mayor can prove himself a point and get back at commissioners and union leaders for defying him.
You can sorta hear an “I told you so” tone in the memo Gimenez sent to commissioners late Thursday, while he was at a comfortable distance in Tallahassee pushing the county’s priorities.
The cutbacks “will result in a reduced number of audits, affect internal controls, and lessen maintenance and support of personnel and facility resources,” Gimenez said. “Existing staff will be absorbing more work.”
Audits and internal controls, huh? Anyone else see red flags here?
And while he boasts of eliminating 68 vacant positions across the county, that still leaves about 520 jobs that are budgeted and unfilled.
In other words: There are 520 paychecks budgeted that do not get written, that do not get paid, that do not get cashed. Where does that money go? Sounds like a scam to me. And might we have been able to maintain audits, internal controls and maintenance of support of personnel and facility resources had we eliminated a few more of those ghost employees?
Of course, we could have. But where is the drama in that? Where is the payback? Where is the opportunity for “I told you so?”
Several Miami-Dade employees and County Hall insiders told Ladra that after the 5% vote, department heads had come up with “efficiencies,” or savings in plain English, that would address the shortfalls in their individual divisions. Those same sources say that Deputy Mayor Genaro “Chip” Iglesias was happy to hear that — and wanted to go back to Gimenez with the good news — but that Lisa Martinez, the newly appointed chief of staff who was a senior adviser to the mayor at the time and a schoolteacher in Coconut Grove ten years ago, was not so chipper.
“She said the mayor wanted bodies,” said a labor leader who spoke to someone who was at the meeting. “She made it very clear that she was there on behalf of the mayor to express his wishes.”
Shortly after that exchange, Martinez was made chief of staff and Chip — a fellow firefighter who rose with Gimenez at the Miami Fire Department and then moved with him to City Hall when Gimenez was made Miami City Manager — was relegated to the doomed Major League Soccer stadium fiasco. Political insiders and a couple people close to him are calling Iglesias a “short timer.”
Hey, that may be one less person — or two or three or even four, at Chip’s salary — that Gimenez has to lay off.
Or it may become one more vacant budgeted position.