Stephen Petty had neither government experience nor a CPA when he applied for the No. 2 job in the city of Miami’s finance department earlier this year.
It didn’t matter. City Manager Johnny Martinez waived both requirements.
Petty is one of at least 17 city officials who have been hired since 2010 without meeting the minimum qualifications for the job, records obtained by The Miami Herald show. The list includes several high-ranking administrators: solid waste director Keith Carswell, procurement director Kenneth Robertson, assistant building director Vanessa Acosta, interim information technology director Cynthia Torres, zoning administrator Barnaby Min and communications director Angel Zayón.
In each case, the city manager or the human resources director signed a waiver casting aside the job’s requirements. The Herald obtained copies of 18 waivers issued between 2010 and 2011, and one issued in 2012. There are likely others which the city could not provide, because it has not been keeping a master list and the manager has ignored a commission directive to keep its members in the loop.
“That’s disturbing,” Commission Chairman Francis Suarez said of the number of waivers issued. “What’s especially disturbing is that so many of the people on the list are upper-echelon members of our city administration and people in the mayor’s office.”
Petty’s case has been particularly controversial because he has a link to the top city staffer who hired him.
Petty’s brother, John, has a Coral Springs consulting firm with the city’s Chief Financial Officer Janice Larned, corporate records show. Larned sat on the selection committee that chose Stephen Petty for the finance director job. She also drafted the waiver that enabled Petty to win the job, despite not meeting requirements listed on the job posting.
Neither she nor Petty returned calls seeking comment.
Martinez, the city manager, said he signed the waiver in March at Larned’s urging.
“She thought he was the best person for the job,” Martinez said.
Petty beat out candidates who had experience in municipal government. Some were certified public accountants. Petty’s experience was entirely in the private sector, most recently as a financial planner at a regional bank in Texas, according to his digital application.
In a scathing email penned this month, the city’s risk management director, Calvin Ellis, who sat on the selection committee, said he felt Larned “was clearly lobbying for Mr. Petty even though he did not meet the prerequisite minimum qualifications for the position.”
The city manager said he didn’t learn about the connection between Larned and Petty until after he had signed the waiver. In an interview this week, Martinez said he would have liked to have known about the relationship earlier. But it wouldn’t have made a difference, he said.
Human Resources Director Beverly Pruitt said issuing qualifications waivers is “an administrative function’’ built into the hiring process. When a position opens, administrators don’t often update the job description, leaving the waivers as a fallback option to hire a certain candidate, she said.
“The descriptions may have been done eight or 10 years ago,” she said, noting that the qualifications for a particular position may have changed over time.