South Florida

Opa-locka manager gets second check for $5,900 without required state board approval

Opa-locka City Manager Yvette Harrell
Opa-locka City Manager Yvette Harrell

Outgoing City Manager Yvette Harrell demanded and received not one but two checks for $5,908 each to cover retroactive pay from a salary raise — without getting the required approval of a state board overseeing Opa-locka's financial crisis.

Board member Frank Rollason, a veteran administrator who regularly reviews the city's bills for approval by the governor's office, said he discovered Tuesday that Harrell was paid the second installment on her back pay without the board’s permission.

Rollason said the nine-member oversight board, appointed almost a year ago by Gov. Rick Scott, did not approve Harrell’s employment contract or her recent separation agreement.

“Absolutely, she should not have been paid,” Rollason told the Miami Herald. “She is not entitled to anything.”

Harrell has refused to talk to the Herald since the paper reported last week that she received the first check May 10 for $5,908 over the objections of finance director Charmaine Parchment. At the time, Harrell told the Herald that she was not going to cash the first check, without disclosing that she was about to receive the second check May 17 for the same amount.

Rollason, the city manager in North Bay Village who had worked for decades as a senior Miami administrator, said he learned from the finance director that Harrell did not cash either check. But he said the city manager did not provide an explanation to Parchment.

City Commissioner Joseph Kelley said “no check should have been cut yet” to Harrell because her retroactive pay and separation agreement have not been approved by the state board.

Harrell’s checks are only the latest controversy over back pay and benefits in Opa-locka, a city that has generously handed out both despite teetering on the brink of bankruptcy for more than a year and having three officials plead guilty to federal corruption charges.

Harrell submitted her formal resignation May 10. However, her “separation agreement,” which includes a total of $20,000 in gross back pay and other benefits, does not take effect until she leaves and is replaced, according to the terms. The city commission plans to pick her successor this summer.

Harrell, a lawyer who was hired as city manager by the commission last August, makes $125,000 a year from her Opa-locka job, the result of a raise in a contract approved by the city commission in October. She previously made $85,000 a year.

The oversight board, however, did not approve her new employment agreement.

Harrell is not the only Opa-locka employee to receive retroactive pay for promotions and raises, despite the city’s barely balanced budget and longterm debt totaling $14 million. Last Thursday, the city commission approved back pay for 13 employees, from an assistant city clerk to the public works director, totaling nearly $39,000.

“Of course, this has to go before the [state] board” for approval, Harrell told the commissioners last Thursday, without explaining why she got paid the two checks without the panel’s scrutiny.