Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez and County Manager George Burgess expressed shock and outrage over the waste and mismanagement uncovered by The Miami Herald in its prize-winning investigation of the Miami-Dade Housing Agency (MDHA) last year.
The MDHA pledged more than $87 million over a three-year period to build housing for the poor, but about 40 percent of the projects were canceled and others delayed for months or years, the newspaper found.
“Heads will roll,” Burgess told a local television station a few days after the newspaper series was published.
And roll they did. After the stories hit the newsstands, Burgess replaced a half-dozen of the agency’s top brass, called for criminal investigations, took back land and money from delinquent developers, and tightened rules, in what’s been described as a major overhaul of the agency.
Still, officials could have acted much sooner to fix the problems, the Herald reported. According to the newspaper, “For years, top county leaders received explicit warnings of widespread problems, yet greenlighted controversial proposals and failed to track the flow of cash from an agency flush with public money.”
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) attempted to take over the MDHA this spring, but the agency filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the action, arguing that HUD’s own handbook counsels takeovers only for “severe, pervasive, and systemic” problems in which the local agency resists reform efforts.
Several developers of low-income housing tax credit projects, which were not implicated in the problems uncovered by the investigation, said last year’s shakeup has turned things around at the MDHA.
“They put people of the highest integrity in charge of it and are changing the program so they are fixing the problems,” said Marc Plonskier, president of the Gatehouse Group. “They appear to have created new procedures to streamline the process for allocating funds, including creating new rules for the loan committee and new standardized forms so that the process would be more predictable and transparent.”
Some of the staffing changes in Miami-Dade County are listed below. The MDHA is undergoing a restructuring and reorganization, so some positions no longer exist within the agency (and are denoted by “N/A”) and some have been newly created. All positions listed are within the MDHA, except the assistant county manager job:
|Assistant County Manager||Cynthia Curry||Tony Crapp|
|Director||Kris Warren||Alphonso Brewster|
|CFO||Clarence D. Brown||N/A|
|Deputy Director||N/A||Rodolfo Perez|
|Director, Infill Housing program||N/A||Emma Duffie|
|Finance and Administration Director||N/A||John Topinka|
Director, Development Loan &
|Assistant Director, DLAD||vacant||Juan Garcia|