Stephen Petty, City Of Miami Chief Finance Officer, Resigns Amid Qualifications Waiver Uproar

11/01/2012 02:08 pm ET | Updated Jan 17, 2013

If you ever joked about City of Miami execs seeming unqualified, well, there's a pretty good chance you're right.

At least a dozen high-ranking city employees hired since 2010 do not meet the minimum qualifications for their jobs, but were hired anyway, according to public records first revealed by city watchdog blogger Al Crespo.

One of them, Finance Director Stephen Petty, reportedly resigned his $135,000-salary position on Tuesday, roughly seven weeks after the Crespogram Report revealed Petty did not hold a CPA license as required by the city.

Crespo, long a thorn in the side of Mayor Tomas Regalado's administration, uncovered a doozy of a trail in September when he learned that a waiver to hire Petty had been requested by Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Janice Larned, who had been -- and possibly still was -- in business with Petty's brother.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Against the strong objections of at least one member of the 3-person search committee, Petty was hired to manage the city's notoriously messy books despite having no experience in local government and failing to hold a license as a certified public accountant.

When Larned allegedly blamed the hiring committee in the wake of Crespo's exposé, that member, risk management director Calvin Ellis, wrote a memo disputing her account of the process ("Larned was clearly lobbying for Mr. Petty") and sent it to himself through city email.

Read Ellis' account of how Petty was hired at Crespogram Report.

It was also revealed that Interim Zoning Manager-turned-Assistant Director of Building Vanessa Acosta received two waivers for her positions, despite a request memo noting that she is "not licensed as an architect, professional engineer, or general contractor."

("However ... she has assisted in activities related to law and zoning issues and the supervision of employees," argued the interim zoning manager waiver request.)

Other high-ranking employees whose lack of required qualifications were officially dismissed include communications director Angel Zayón, procurement director Kenneth Robertson, solid waste director Keith Carswell, interim information technology director Cynthia Torres, and zoning administrator Barnaby Min.

Some city officials have publicly expressed a lack of confidence in the current finance department, which Larned was running with Petty second in command. Treasury manager Mirtha Dziedzic (also the city's former budget director), chief accountant Barbara Gray and director of capital improvements Albert Sosa all resigned in August as the cash-strapped city struggled to balance its books and bear up under two separate bond fraud investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Larned herself was talked into staying by city officials.

According to Reuters, the city offered to restructure the whole department in an effort to settle looming civil fraud charges, but no agreement has been reached.

Still, at least one city commissioner actually painted the current situation as an improvement, though he said he would push for a qualified replacement for Petty.

“We're in a better place than where we were a year ago, when we had no CFO and no finance director,” City Commissioner Frank Carollo told the Herald after Petty's resignation. “But it’s still not the scenario we want to be in."

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