In August, 2009, the Miami Herald's Matt Haggman and Jack Dolan exposed a County Hall shell game being run by then Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Alvarez.
In the Sunday, Aug. 30, 2009 page one story, headlined "Downsized Miami-Dade staff still make big bucks," Dolan and Haggman wrote,
Under fire for delivering double-digit raises to his closest advisors during a budget crisis, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez has defended himself by saying the perks were part of a broader staff reorganization that eliminated jobs and saved money.Musto no longer works in the Office of capital Improvements.
But many of the executives whose jobs disappeared are still working for the county , in some cases at higher salaries -- raising questions about how much the cutbacks have saved taxpayers.
For example, the mayor said the 54 percent raise he gave in 2008 to his $125,000 per year director of communications, Victoria Mallette, was a bargain because she replaced two other executives.
"The truth is, if you look at the situation as it really played out, I saved the county , I don't know, more than $100,000," Alvarez told WQBA radio host Oscar Haza on Tuesday, two days after a Miami Herald report detailed raises to his top aides.
But both of the employees Alvarez said Mallette replaced, former Communications Director Paula Musto and her Assistant Director Louie Fernandez, are still on the county payroll.
They made a combined $315,839 in September 2007, when they left the communications office. They grossed $350,243 in their new county jobs in 2008, payroll records show.
Musto is now the $145,542 chief of public relations for one of the county 's smallest departments, the 33-person office of Capital Improvements.
Fernandez, who had been a firefighter before becoming a county spokesman, is now a captain in the fire department's training division. His $125,777 salary is about the same as it had been in the communications department, but with generous overtime he grossed $203,702 in 2008, records show. Fernandez did not respond to messages requesting comment.
County Manager George Burgess said both Musto and Fernandez represent a savings to taxpayers because their old jobs were eliminated, and they took vacant slots that were going to be filled anyway.
"We like to promote and hire and provide opportunities from within," Burgess said. "If you're creating positions for someone, that's a different story."
But critics say moving executives around only makes sense if the vacant job they step into is necessary, and if new responsibilities justify the salary.
In her old role as county spokeswoman, Musto was quoted hundreds of times in newspapers and magazines across the country. Since the move to Capital Improvements two years ago, she has been quoted once, according to a search of Lexis-Nexis, the nation's most thorough aggregator of printed media.
Musto said her days are now filled with preparing reports and discussing capital improvement projects with municipal and industry leaders across the county. "To me, media means doing an online newsletter now," she said.
"That's not worth $145,000. No way, no how," said County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, a frequent Alvarez critic.
On the Port of Miami's website, she's listed as the Communications Director for the Port.
The most recent data shows that Musto now takes home almost $152,000 a year.
And while she's the communications director for the Port of Miami - which is the largest container port in Florida - I could find no instances where she's ever been quoted in local media on issues related to the port.
The August, 2009 Herald story also cited another example of a highly-paid county executive being shifted around within county government.
In all, 26 people have left the executive offices without being replaced since Alvarez's election in November 2004, according to Burgess. There have been a few positions created, bringing the overall job reductions to 20 -- a number Alvarez cited last week in broadcast appearances, e-mails to constituents and a letter to The Miami Herald editorial board.The most recent county data shows that Torriente's annual salary
Fourteen of those who left have found other jobs in the county , Burgess said Friday.
* Susanne Torriente , an assistant county manager since 2003, who was named director of Miami-Dade's Office of Sustainability last month. The newly created post, which was not advertised, will oversee a small department run since March 2008 by Devesh Nirmul.
"The more I looked into it, the more I realized this office needed additional resources, so I spoke to George about beefing it up," said Torriente , who moved to the new position with her two staffers from the mayor's office -- increasing the office size from two to five, with another expected. The office will be funded by a federal grant.
Torriente said the job description remains broadly defined. "It's what you make it," she said.
Her $206,783 salary will not change.
"We're talking about somebody who was No. 2, right behind Burgess, and she's now supervising six people? And she's making over $200,000 a year? That's a little high, I would think," Gimenez said.
Yesterday, Torriente - sensing perhaps that with the election of Carlos Gimenez, her days as a highly-paid, do-nothing county executive might be coming to an end - submitted her resignation to the county manager.
From: Torriente, Susanne M. (OOS)
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 2:54 PM
To: (DERM) All Users
Subject: Dear DERM...
Dear DERM – this morning I gave the County Manager my resignation, which I have attached below. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with you over the last month. I hope I was able to share my passion, energy and insight. Please keep doing what you do so well. Approach your jobs with excitement and view your jobs through the broader sustainability lens. Please continue giving Jose and Lee your full support. We floated many great ideas this month. Jose and Lee are working on many of these ideas and will see them come to life. Best wishes to each of you, and like I said to the Manager, perhaps our paths will cross again.
Twenty–one years ago this summer, you called me and offered me a position as a Management Trainee in Metro-Dade County. I realized that it was a great opportunity, and soon found out it was a great honor as well. My years at the County have been challenging and rewarding, and while I enjoyed many years of problem solving and trouble shooting on the 29th floor, nothing has been more rewarding than the last two years coordinating, enhancing and managing the sustainability agenda for Miami-Dade. I am pleased and proud at the progress we have made in two short years. GreenPrint is the county’s first sustainability plan and first climate action plan. It is a roadmap for the next five years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and measure progress in many quality of life initiatives. It is the first plan in the county to have its own scorecard and performance measures. It is already being recognized as a national model. The energy grant has given us the ability to pilot new and innovative technologies that can be replicated and institutionalized. We have met all our federal milestones and we continue to be highly praised by the Department of Energy.
Thank you for your confidence in my abilities during this historic transition. Juggling three jobs has given me additional insight and confidence. I have enjoyed the opportunity to manage the day to day operations of the Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) and prepare them for the transition to a new government.
I can assure you that the staffs of both the Office of Sustainability and at DERM are capable, qualified and prepared to carry the agenda forward with excitement, enthusiasm and passion. It is them I will miss the most.
The transition is over and it is time to move on. This is not an easy decision, but it is the right decision at this time. Please accept my resignation from County service. I wish you continued success, health and happiness. I do have a feeling that our paths will cross again.
Susanne M. Torriente,