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Miami Finance Staff Resignations Signal More Trouble For City

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Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.

Things are really not going well at City Hall: as cash-strapped Miami struggles to balance its books, several top finance officials are abandoning ship.

Treasury manager Mirtha Dziedzic, who is also the city's former budget director, chief accountant Barbara Gray and director of capital improvements Albert Sosa all resigned late last week, as first reported by Crespo Gram.

Assistant city manager and chief financial officer Janice Larned was talked into staying on Thursday, according to the Miami Herald, but sources told Crespo Gram she and finance director Stephen Petty would likely resign this week.

Despite the bloodletting, Mayor Tomas Regalado dismissed concerns that the departures signal further deterioration for Miami's financial outlook.

“I would say it’s a coincidence,” the mayor told the Herald. “People are leaving for other opportunities.”

But the timing suggests otherwise. The city has just weeks to close a $40 million gap in the $485 million budget after a plan to grab concessions from police, fire, and general employee unions hit a major legal snag.

City Manager Johnny Martinez Johnny Martinez pronounced the city in a state of financial urgency for the fourth time last month, a slick move that allows the city to re-negotiate its contracts with the unions.

But after the Fraternal Order of Police sued in response, arguing it didn't properly invoke the vaguely worded statute, a judge ruled the city manager doesn't have the authority to declare financial urgency. The unions will not negotiate now until after the 3rd District Court of Appeals rules on the case.

Then there's a pending investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, who are looking into the city's financing of Marlins Park. A previous SEC probe into bond fraud concluded in July, recommending civil fraud charges be brought against the city.

In the latter case, Miami offered to restructure its financial staff in order to settle with the SEC. But while Regalado remained cool, last week's staff shakeup alarmed members of the city commission.

“These are the people who are responsible for our money,” Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones told the Herald. “They are obviously not feeling secure with the situation.”

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