North Miami fires top community development officials

06/30/2014 5:00 PM

07/01/2014 10:32 AM

A few days after a financial audit revealed a discrepancy in the finances of North Miami’s community redevelopment agency, the city manager has fired the agency’s two top employees.

City Manager Aleem Ghany decided to fire CRA coordinator, Lesly Prudent and the agency’s finance manager, Aldwyn Thomas last Friday. In a statement, Ghany said the decision was an effort to reduce spending in the city. Thomas and Prudent’s salaries added up to about $220,000 annually.

The CRA’s projected budget for the coming fiscal year is about $470,000, which is why council members expressed concern at last week’s meeting over the discrepancy in the city and CRA’s financial reports. The city’s auditing firm reported that there was a discrepancy in the city and the CRA’s financial statements, of about $100,000, that wasn’t sorted out until June.

The city reported a number for its financial expenses that did not match up with the numbers the CRA presented when the firm conducted its audit. The city pays for the majority of the CRA’s project costs, according to the report, and then provides the CRA with an invoice and adjustment. The matter was eventually cleared up.

The agency was established in 2005, and in recent meetings, members of its advisory committee have expressed concern about extending the life of the agency. At the committee’s May meeting, Prudent said that the CRA would work on a plan with the city’s community development and planning department to create new projects.

“The North Miami CRA must get consensus within its board in order to present a unified front when the request to extend the life of the CRA is presented to the county,” read the minutes from the May meeting.

Prudent, a former school principal, was first hired as CRA coordinator in 2011.

Ghany, who also serves as executive director of the CRA, said that this reorganization will help solidify the agency’s leadership.

“I am directly responsible to ensure the North Miami CRA serves its mission to remove blighted conditions in the city,” Ghany said in a statement. “As such, I am taking measures to maximize resources to help the agency best serve that mission.”

The duties of the two positions will be carried out by city staff while Ghany sorts out a formal transition plan.

Councilwoman Carol Keys, who expressed concerns over the financial discrepancy at the council meeting, said that she supported Ghany’s actions, and agreed that leadership needed to be reorganized.

“I applaud our manager for saving the CRA $250,000, which will be much better spent going back to the city for improvements,” Keys said.

Thomas called Ghany’s move a “terrible decision” citing his seven years of work with the CRA, and said the move came as a surprise.

“I don’t know if the decision was a correct one, because the CRA is distinct from the city, and I think any decision like that should go before the board,” Thomas said.

The CRA board will meet again 5:30 p.m. on July 8, at North Miami City Hall, 776 NE 125th St.

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