Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Facing state takeover, Opa-locka leaders call for transparency

Opa-locka officials and residents are calling for public transparency after an FBI raid at City Hall and an email letter from Miami-Dade County urging a state takeover of the city.

At a recent workshop meeting, Commissioner Terrence Pinder pointed to a concern held by many residents, including Alvin Burke, who said the city has become irresponsible and secretive.

“The only way that we can find out what’s going on in our city is through the news,” Burke said at a meeting March 17. “We have a right to know what’s going on.”

At the meeting, both Commissioners Pinder and Joseph Kelly were direct in saying that interim City Manager David Chiverton and city staff had a responsibility to give proper notice with updated reports after closed meetings with county and state leaders.

“I don’t like to get stuff on the back-end,” Kelly said, adding that he had found out about the letter from the county “from the news media.”

Kelly, who supported hiring Chiverton as full-time manager during a recent commission meeting, asked how — after so much correspondence between the city, Miami-Dade County and the governor’s office in Tallahassee — the commission was caught off guard by an email that strongly suggested state oversight. “Red flags,” according to Kelly.

“None of the information is new,” Chiverton said in response to Kelly. “Their auditor worked with our finance department compiling this information and giving us their insight.”

Chiverton, who became interim manager in November after City Manager Steve Shiver quit, has said he doesn’t yet know the extent of Opa-locka’s financial crisis.

Earlier in March, Opa-locka officials received an email detailing a financial assessment signed off by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Commissioner Barbara Jordan. The letter was a blow to city staff and shed new light on the city’s financial troubles.

State officials haven’t yet announced what, if anything, should be done to clean up the city’s financial mess.

Opa-locka’s government can still function — but just barely.

The city will have sufficient cash flow until June to maintain day-to-day operations, but afterward may run out of money, Chiverton told Pinder at Thursday meeting.

Opa-locka officials are now looking for quick ways to bring in revenue.

After a department-by-department study of city costs, Opa-locka plans to lay off 12 people in the next 30 days and 10 more by the start of the next fiscal year in October, Chiverton told commissioners at the meeting.

Opa-locka has created a city manager’s task force to collect debt owed to the city. In January, more than $70,000 was collected.

City Attorney Vincent Brown said Opa-locka believes it can collect 35 percent to 40 percent of $6.6 million owed in municipal liens by negotiating with residents.

Day-to-day operations should resume hopefully without a hitch, but Kelly is quick to point out that Opa-locka’s worst days are ahead.

“There’s no plan. There’s nothing that the commissioners have passed. And so there’s a disconnect between what [Chiverton] sent us and what’s reality,” Kelly said.

Town hall meetings

Opa-locka has planned three town hall meetings for the public to discuss and get information about the city’s finances.

▪ 6 p.m. Tuesday, Helen L. Miller Center 233 NW 143rd St.

▪ 6 p.m. Thursday, Helen L. Miller Center 233 NW 143rd St.

▪ 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, Sherbondy Village Auditorium, 215 Perviz Ave.