Sunday, February 27, 2011

Who's minding the store at the City of Miami?

OK, you can stop laughing now.

Actually, if you're a City of Miami resident, it's no laughing matter.

The city's financial situation is precarious.

But with all its problems, some of the city's employees are the highest paid public employees in the county.

That was pointed up this week when a Miami assistant fire chief was arrested and charged in an $11 million mortgage fraud case.

This morning, Channel 10's Michael Putney closed out his Sunday show with a question for those in charge of the purse strings in Miami.
Before we leave you this morning, a personal perspective about one glaring example of a government employee whose pay and benefits just don't add up. Well, they do for her. But not for taxpayers.

The employee in this case is Veldora Arthur. She's 45 and the highest ranking woman in the Miami Fire Department. This week she was charged with being a sham buyer in the purchase of a couple of luxury condos in Aventura. Her lawyer says she's the victim and she's pleaded not guilty.
Veldora Arthur
We'll let the courts decide her guilt or innocence.

My concern is Ms. Arthur's salary and benefits.

Now, she's been in the fire department for 25 years and evidently has done a good job so no one would deny her a good salary and generous benefits.

But how about a salary of $184,000 and a total benefits package of close to $300,000?

You heard that right. An assistant Miami fire chief gets nearly $300,000 a year? Unbelievable. No wonder the City of Miami is nearly broke.

Public employees deserve to make a decent salary and to reasonable retirement benefits [but] $300,000 a year is beyond reasonable. In fact, it's downright offensive.

And here's the kicker: assistant Chief Arthur, now under indictment, was in charge of the fire departments payroll.

Who's watching the store down there at the City of Miami?

The Miami Herald's Chuck Rabin reported the arrest of Arthur but the story was actually broken first by The Straw Buyer blog which wrote: "Consider for a moment who Ms. Arthur is within the City of Miami Fire Department. Oddly enough her responsibility is to oversee the financial matters of the Fire Department including payroll and procurement. Who exactly do we have behind the controls at the City of Miami? Ms. Arthur makes $184,336.44 as an assistant fire chief, in this day and age, is that not enough to get by on?"

If you've been paying attention, it should come as no surprise that Arthur is just one of many City of Miami employees who make outrageous salaries.

In May 2009, Biscayne Times reported that nearly 100 of the cash-strapped city's workers make more than $200,000 annually.

No one should be surprised that Arthur - who's in charge of the fire department's payroll - is also one of its highest earners. Hey, Miami didn't get the name "Banana Republic" just because it has a lot of fruit stands.

One question that needs to be answered is why the Miami Herald has ignored that aspect of the story. There's almost no mention of Arthur - the highest ranking black female in the fire department - in the archives of the Herald.

She is mentioned in one story in 1990. Arthur was a passenger in a car in which a fire department secretary died when it was hit by another car.

But there's also a back story.

Readers of The Straw Buyer's blog post make some interesting points in the comments section. "She was a failure as a firefighter On the floor less than a year. Faked an injury at the Woolworth fire and never again rode a truck. A disaster as executive assistant and promoted by her close friend to Chief," writes one reader.

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