Miami Beach

Miami Beach hires former budget director as new CFO in wake of bank fraud scandal

Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales, left, and Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco, right, at the city commission meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017.
Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales, left, and Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco, right, at the city commission meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. cjuste@miamiherald.com

A day after Miami Beach’s chief financial officer got a demotion following the theft of $3.6 million from a city bank account that went undetected for six months, City Manager Jimmy Morales announced he is bringing a former budget director back to lead the city’s struggling finance department.

John Woodruff, who left his position in the Beach in the spring of 2016 to become management and budget director in his hometown of San Antonio, will return at the end of January. City commissioners approved the appointment Wednesday.

He will replace Allison Williams, who was promoted from chief accountant to CFO in the fall of 2015. Her promotion came after the previous CFO and assistant finance director were forced to resign when they were found to have manipulated leave time to benefit future payouts upon leaving the city.

Morales publicly addressed the commission for the first time since it was revealed that $3.6 million was siphoned out of a bank account through unauthorized automatic payments.

“There is no denying we should have caught this earlier,” he said. “There was clearly human error and non-action that contributed to this.”

Morales, a former politician and first-time administrator who has run the city’s day-to-day operations since the spring of 2013, apologized for his administration’s failure to catch the problem earlier — an oversight that will blemish his record.

“Although I personally believe I did nothing to contribute to this event, the buck clearly stops at my desk,” he said. “It’s my job to take responsibility.”

Woodruff worked for the city for three years before leaving last year. In November 2014, he was suspended for three days without pay after he made a mistake on the public notice advertising the amount of taxes that would be collected for the Center City Redevelopment Area. He briefly served as interim CFO before Williams was named to the position. During that period, he oversaw a large bond issuance to pay for the $600 million renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Commissioners did not comment on the issues, citing an open criminal investigation of the bank theft being pursued by the FBI and the police department.

“While it’s difficult to be patient, I don’t think its appropriate for us to comment on it until the investigation is complete,” Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán said.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech

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