Miami-Dade County

Insider picked to probe county departments for waste

Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess has appointed a long-time county administrator to work alongside auditor Cathy Jackson to spot potential deficiencies in several county departments.

Howard Piper, 49, becomes special assistant for management and performance assessment and reports directly to Burgess. He'll begin his stint examining operations in the Transit, Solid Waste Management and Water and Sewer departments, the Office of Community and Economic Development and the Empowerment Zone.

Piper had served as deputy director of the Department of Procurement Management.

The county has been rocked with construction delays and scandals involving several departments over the past few years.

The Carnival Center for the Performing Arts and work at Miami International Airport are well behind schedule and over budget. The Miami-Dade Housing Agency is being overhauled after gross mismanagement was uncovered.

In a memo to the county mayor and commissioners, Burgess said that Piper will conduct similar in-depth probes of departments throughout county government, much as Cynthia Curry did at the housing agency.

Curry was brought in in February to clean up the mess in housing, and the department is now undergoing a ``top to bottom overhaul,'' Burgess said.

Piper has been charged with analyzing financial and operational issues in departments other than housing, which Curry oversees.

Piper could decide if a department has too many vehicles or phones, for example, or if an office needs to be moved, said Louie Fernandez, the county's assistant director for media and public affairs.

``In my view this is a healthy, necessary and constructive process,'' Burgess wrote.