Miami's Five Worst City and County Managers Who Prove Merrett Stierheim Wrong

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Merrett Stierheim
Over the weekend, Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez revealed he is entertaining the idea of eliminating the city manager's position in favor of the strong mayor form of government. His proposal, which would require voter approval to change the city charter, makes sense because it gives residents one top elected official to hold accountable. Let's not forget voters gave Carlos Alvarez strong mayor powers over Miami-Dade County government and then recalled him when he failed to deliver.

According to the Miami Herald, ultimate bureaucrat Merrett Stierheim, who served two stints as county manager and was briefly interim city manager in 1996, is no fan of strong mayors: "You may elect a mayor with a bad moral compass, and you're stuck with him. A manager generally runs for office every day."

With all due respect to Stierheim -- who helped the city emerge from insolvency in the mid-1990s and whose career was largely untainted by scandal -- there have been several top administrators who lacked a moral compass and respect for taxpayers. Here's Banana Republican's list of the worst city and county managers:

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5. ​George Burgess, county manager (2003-2011)

Career low: While never indicted for any crimes, Burgess' tenure was marked with one embarrassing scandal after another. He was brought in by former Mayor Alex Penelas to clean up the mess left behind the woefully unqualified Steve Shiver. Yet under Burgess's watch, the federal government took over the county's housing agency following the Miami Herald investigative series "House of Lies." The feds also suspended $182 million in grants to the Miami-Dade Transit Agency after an audit concluded the county had failed to document how the money was being spent, among other problems. Although Burgess was arguably baseball mogul Jeffrey Loria's best pinch hitter, engineering the boondoggle Marlins stadium deal that is now the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission.

Annual public salary: $345,515

Pension: None. But the 53-year-old former county executive did receive a half-a-million dollar severance package and health insurance for himself and his family until he is 65.

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4. Joe Arriola, city manager (2003 - 2006)

Career low: A self-made millionaire brought in by then-Mayor Manny Diaz to run the city like a business, the combative Arriola quickly found out that local government is nothing like the private sector. He signed off on the ill-advised illegal fire fee settlement that paid $7 million to just seven people instead of 80,000 taxpayers. The fiasco ended up eroding Diaz's faith in Arriola and eventually cost prominent Miami attorney Hank Adorno his law license for six months. As questions over the settlement spread like wild fire, it was also discovered that Arriola had partnered with Diaz and then-city Commissioner Johnny Winton to purchase a property in Coconut Grove for $3.1 million. Arriola put down $400,000. None of them reported the deal, which was a conflict of interest, but only Diaz and Winton had to pay fines to the Miami-Dade ethics commission.

Annual public salary: $245,000. Although he only kept ten bucks and donated the rest to the United Way.

Pension: None.

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9 comments
jstein603
jstein603

Are you kidding me?  Joe Arriola was the only manager besides Steve Shive that actually ran a business.  Burgess is a government lacky that led Carlos Alverez, anothe student of government to slaughter. Javier Souto, Peneles' cheif of staff was the one that orchestrated the deal bringing in Burgess after Shiver resigned.  Now he is director or president of the Dade Foundation and Alfredo Mesa is the ED of the Marlins trust.  Do you think for a minute that the stadium at any cost was not going to be built.  None of the guys have ever ran anyhing in their life except suck of the government tit so you get what you pay for.  Shiver was no saint but at least he stood up for what was right.  I worked at transit for over 25 years and Shiver was the only manager that I dealt with that really made a difference.  beaurocrats like burgess led to the largest recall over 88% of any Mayor in the country.  That should tell you something.  And btw, Georgem Burgess with his $400k package quite the next day....

Ralph
Ralph

The whole process relating to the disgraced people in public office over the years reeks of self interest and self gain. These people seem to have no sense of probity decency and responsibility for the public at large, and don't care what anyone thinks of their behaviour.

You get the politicians you deserve, is one way of looking at this, and certainly this has been the case in the past. Does any body care about anything apart from self interest in this area.I doubt it. When enough of you do and show it, things will improve.

In the meantime scandals will continue, self interest of the few will prevail, and huge sums of money will be wasted on the ambitions and greed of the few, whilst you all look the other way.

Many who do care can't speak English, or don't read the news, and only watch mindless tv. 

Thats what we get when we don't care!

$3 BILLION diverted
$3 BILLION diverted

George Burgess acted like he was the chief lobbyist for Jeffrey Loria the Canadian owner of the Marlins. Many managers stole and made stupid decisions but Burgess left the County taxpayers forced to pay over $3 BILLION for a stadium and garage 100% controlled by a foreign based private company.

rita rodriguez
rita rodriguez

Just because there have been bad city managers doesn't mean we're better off with a strong mayor. Past mayors were involved in the selections of those managers.  If they're worried about the so-called loophole of having no recall process in the Charter, then just add a couple of sentences to the Charter so there is a recall process. Duh!  The citizens would still get to vote on it.  But using that as an excuse to give politicians more power and time in office... this whole thing just doesn't smell right.    

jagua2010
jagua2010

Disgusting waste of public money!!! The worst was Burgess!! He had no regard for the citizens.. his only boss was Lloria and sticking us with the Marlins stadium con! Now he can retire on his benefits from screwing the citizens of this county! I don't want ANY PERSON AUTHORIZED TO INDEBT ME WHO IS NOT ANSWERABLE TO ME AS JOE PUBLIC... OUT WITH CITY MANAGERS!!!

outraged tax payer
outraged tax payer

George Burgess annual salary was $345,515.00, what the F$%$!!!!! The president of the United States makes $400,000. This is ridiculous. But nobody ever mentions his salary be a culprit to the county budget problems. 

Disgraced Manny Diaz
Disgraced Manny Diaz

Joe Arriola and Pete Hernandez were both stooges for the disgraced ex-Mayor Manny Diaz. Arriola was too dumb and Hernandez was too in love with his pay and title. Criminal Diaz escaped indictment, so far. Wait for the SEC investigation?

SEC investigates Burgess
SEC investigates Burgess

George Burgess was corrupt. How else to explain his lies while promoting the Marlins deal which will cost the taxpayers well over $3BILLION, much more when the County is forced to refinance the high interest bonds sold to finance the Stadium and Garage.

bbtatt
bbtatt

Wow very good story. Corruption corruption everywhere!

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