When Barbara Gomez took over the city's housing agency four years ago, she pledged to crack down on developers who failed to deliver projects. She promised to recover money from builders who still owed city money. And she vowed to create more housing for the poor.
But while her salary steadily rose to positive reviews, the Department of Community Development doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars to developers with dubious track records for projects that were never built or delayed for years.
The 49-year-old administrator, who earns $144,000 a year, is now at the center of a highly anticipated city audit expected to cite massive breakdowns in one of Miami's most important agencies.
The probe comes while her ex-husband, Rene Rodriguez, is under criminal investigation as the former director of the county's scandal-ridden housing agency.
Now Gomez the other half of a oncepowerful marriage that controlled the purse strings of public funding for affordable housing in Miami-Dade County must account for problems in her own agency.
Gomez points to a series of policy changes she has made since taking over as director in 2003, including penalties for affordable-housing developers who flip land for profit instead of building promised homes. She also says she has collected millions in overdue loans and has stopped covering administrative costs for all nonprofit builders except Habitat for Humanity.
Many of the breakdowns within the agency began before she took the top job some dating back years and never rectified under prior leadership.
But a Miami Herald investigation found that developers and other investors owed the city $16 million in overdue loans as of January, a figure that Gomez says has been been reduced to $10 million in the last five months.
Meanwhile, the city doled out millions of dollars to five developers who never produced the homes they promised, including a community development corporation that flipped land for profit.
An audit, ordered by city commissioners in the wake of last summer's county housing scandal, is expected to find similar failures.
City Auditor General Victor Igwe's staff has been met with plenty of resistance, according to recent e-mails the veteran auditor sent to the city manager.
Gomez "has worked extremely hard to evade and or avoid responding to relevant audit inquiries, slowed down and undermined the audit process," Igwe wrote in response to a critical e-mail from Gomez.
Gomez, in an April e-mail to commissioners, said Igwe's staff was causing the problem.
"I feel harassed and personally and professionally offended by the [Office of Internal Auditor General's] intimidating tactics," Gomez wrote.
Miami Mayor Manny Diaz defends his housing chief at least for now saying he is satisfied with her job performance based on the housing statistics she has shown him.
"She certainly has pushed the envelope to get that kind of production and get the team together to push the projects we've wanted to push," he said.
Despite the mayor's support, criminal investigators are asking questions.
After Gomez's ex-husband, Rene Rodriguez, retired from the Miami-Dade Housing Agency in 2004, he took consulting jobs from developers who had received funding from both his and Gomez's agencies.
One was Oscar Rivero, who was arrested last year for allegedly stealing county housing funds to buy himself a house.
Rodriguez was also paid by developer Salomon Yuken, whose projects have received millions of dollars from the city. Yuken said he paid Rodriguez $5,000.
Gomez said her ex-husband's consulting deals did not influence her decisions as the city's housing chief.
"I don't have anything to do with him," she said, adding that the divorce became final in February.
Rodriguez did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.
Asked why she hired a top defense attorney, Gomez said, "I got worried that I could be dragged in."