Given Opa-locka’s long-term reputation for political chicanery and corruption, friends and family questioned my sanity when last August I accepted a request from then-Florida Inspector General Melinda Miguel to assist her and the Financial Emergency Board with that city’s declared financial quagmire. Gov. Rick Scott appointed Miguel and that board to deal with Opa-locka’s fiscal problems, but gave her no additional staff or financial support, which is why she asked for my help.
After six months of effort; submitting several reports with recommendations, some of which were printed in the Miami Herald; enlisting David Morris, former county budget director, and Jay Flynn, a retired county human-resource expert, as a pro- bono team, we have all stepped aside, including Miguel, who recently resigned as the state’s inspector general.
I have the greatest regret for the resident of Opa-locka, who are the innocent victims of this ongoing tragedy. For a relatively disadvantaged community, they are paying the highest taxes and other fees. I also feel badly for the honest, hard-working employees who, without exception, fear political retribution.
The basic reason for abandoning our efforts was the realization that nothing would really change until two things happened: major changes in the city’s political leadership; and having the inexperienced, interim city manager replaced by a professional/reform manager.
I frequently asked, without answer, how much evidence of misfeasance or nonfeasance did the governor need to remove officials? In addition, we kept waiting for the FBI to complete its investigation.
After six frustrating months, it became clear that little could be accomplished until the aforementioned changes occurred. Elected officials have clearly demonstrated their reluctance to relinquish power to an experienced professional city manager.
Merrett R. Stierheim,