Rather than rewrite the listing, Pruitt said, the city advertises and sees who replies. Then it decides if a waiver needs to be issued.
Martinez said the waivers are “no big deal,” and that he is confident in the abilities of the employees who have been hired.
“Sometimes it is hard to find someone who has the exact qualifications,” he explained.
William Werther, a professor at the University of Miami School of Business, said a city like Miami could have a hard time filling mid-level management jobs, despite the glut of unemployed municipal employees. His reasoning: Most of the unemployed municipal workers nationally held low-level jobs, and those who had mid-level positions might not know about openings in Miami.
Still, Werther said, if city officials are willing to waive the qualifications to hire someone, they should repost the job, giving others the chance to apply.
“It sounds like they are manipulating the hiring decisions,” Werther said. “The person who is responsible for signing these things needs to be called to task. Our corrupt leaders are up to their usual practices.”
One high-level city administrator, Vanessa Acosta, has benefitted from two waivers: one to become interim manager of zoning in August 2010, and one to become assistant building director just three months later.
For the zoning post, Acosta needed a degree in architecture, planning, urban design, engineering or construction management. Former City Manager Carlos Migoya waived the requirements because she held a law degree and had “assisted in activities related to law and zoning issues and the supervision of employees,” according to the waiver.
In the second waiver, Migoya wrote: “Ms. Acosta is not licensed as an architect, professional engineer or general contractor. However, she holds a JD. She has assisted in activities related to law and zoning issues and the supervision of employees.”
Acosta has since been given a new job title. Martinez and the city’s website identify her as special projects director. But Acosta said Tuesday that she is still the assistant building director. She declined further comment.
The city hired Cynthia Torres to oversee the complex software system that links payroll, accounts payable and procurement, even though she lacks a bachelor’s degree, according to her waiver. She is now interim director of the Information Technology Department.
“I was told not to worry about it, a waiver was signed by the city manager at the time because I had a lot of experience,” Torres said, noting that she had worked for more than three decades in information technology.
Waivers were issued for two staffers in the mayor’s office: aide Asber Cruz, who could not provide a copy of his high school diploma from Cuba, and Lourdes Loyal, who did not have a diploma when she was hired as a part-time aide. She was later issued a second waiver when she was hired as a full-time clerk.
City commissioners have expressed concern about the issue before.
At a July 2011 commission meeting, Suarez brought up the educational waivers, saying, “Those are things that we need to know about.”
Martinez agreed. “I think it’s a good idea for the administration to report on the actions that we’ve taken,” he said.
The commission passed a resolution requiring Martinez, who became city manager one month earlier, to report on “any waivers” that he signed.
But Martinez and his staff have not been doing so, he told The Miami Herald.
Martinez blamed a misunderstanding. The human resources officials who prepare the hiring reports thought they were supposed to focus on another kind of waiver, he said.
“We’re going to change that moving forward,” Martinez said.
The Miami Herald was able to obtain copies of qualifications waivers that had been provided to Commissioner Willy Gort in January. But when a reporter asked for copies of the waivers that had been signed this year, Martinez and human resources administrators said they were not readily available.
Martinez said he may have signed as many as five waivers this year, but he wasn’t positive.
Pruitt, the HR director, said her staff will track down copies of the waivers over the next week. The process, she said, will entail fishing through the files of the 130 or so employees hired since January. The city has made the hires despite a hiring freeze imposed in 2009.
Gort said he looks forward to reviewing the records.
“It is very important that we know why waivers are given,” he said. “It should be an open process.”