Miami Beach’s top two finance officers were forced to resign after the city said it learned they manipulated paid vacation and sick time, the Miami Herald has learned.
Sources familiar with the circumstances confirmed that Beach administrators last week forced the resignations of chief financial officer Patricia Walker and assistant finance director Georgie Echert, because they allegedly misused their leave time to benefit their future payouts upon leaving the city.
City Manager Jimmy Morales asked for their resignations — submitted hastily on handwritten sheets of notebook paper on Sept. 10 — upon finding Walker and Echert had reclassified some leave time without approval, according to sources in City Hall.
Other than a letter to commissioners sent last week announcing the departures and a statement to a reporter saying Walker and Echert left “to seek other opportunities,” Morales had declined to comment further.
After an inquiry by the Herald, Morales released this statement Thursday acknowledging some undisclosed findings:
“Allegations were brought to my attention that raised concerns about two very senior staff members of my staff. After discussing the issues with the two individuals in question, they submitted and I accepted their resignation.”
The city manager continued:
“The issues raised had nothing to do with the performance of the Finance Department nor with the financial status of the city.
I have appointed an interim team to lead the Finance Department and have asked them to assess and address departmental procedures. I will be conducting a search for a new chief financial officer.”
Those allegations, sources said, involve the former employees reclassifying vacation and sick time in such a way that would allow them to cash in on a greater balance of hours when they would eventually leave the city.
“They improperly benefited from that reclassification,” said one City Hall official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The sudden departures left onlookers wondering why the Beach’s top two finance chiefs would walk out on the day of a budget hearing and a few months before the issuance of a series of bonds that will fund the massive renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center.
Echert, reached at home on Monday, denied that any issue over leave time had to do with her resignation. Calls to Walker’s home were not answered.
Joseph Centorino, executive director of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust, said on Thursday he couldn’t speak on the issue.
“I can’t comment on pending matters,” he said.