One of the big problems with our country government today is the lack of transparency. Back room deals, under-the-table payoffs and cronyism that results in high-paying jobs for unqualified associates and relatives are just a few of the allegations that have surfaced over the last few months.
At the heart of our problems in county government is the county commission, a group of lawmakers that, for the most part, seems oblivious to public opinion, has no respect for the people that put them in office and seems intent on passing legislation that will leave all of them in office through this decade and into the next.
Recently, this astounding body of lawmakers killed an item put forth by one of their own, Miami-Dade Commissioner Javier Souto, a proposal that would have made county government a lot more open. Souto wanted the commission to create an ordinance that would have required the county to post online the qualifications and credentials of employees’ who earn six-figure salaries.
Souto made his motion at the May 3 county commission meeting. It would have created new Miami-Dade government policy and require employment information for all county and Public Health Trust employees who make over $100,000 annually to be posted on the county’s Internet website. According to the legislation, each posting would include the employee’s name, resume or synopsis of his or her qualifications with confidential information redacted, listing of degrees, the employee’s salary and benefits, the employee’s title and department or agency where employed, and the employee’s longevity with the county.
Souto’s colleagues on the county commission kicked the item around for a short time, then voted to kill it by a 7-4 vote. Only commissioners Joe Martinez, Lynda Bell and Rebeca Sosa sided with Souto in voting to pass the proposal.
The purpose of the proposed ordinance, according to Souto, was to protect the professionalism and integrity of the county labor force, particularly of those employees in the upper end of the pay scale.
“One way to allay concerns from the public and our own rank and file is by demonstrating that those earning six figure salaries have the educational qualifications, experience and longevity that would warrant a higher salary,” said Souto. “It is different to have a 20- or 25-year county employee in upper management with a Master’s in Business Administration or a doctoral degree in economy from a wellrespected university earning a six-figure salary, as opposed to a newly-hired county employee who doesn’t even have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.
“I am disappointed that my colleagues did not move forward with this item, which I felt would provide more transparency in government and encourage future administrations to hire more qualified individuals for top-paying jobs. This would be a step in the right direction, if we want to restore public confidence in our county government. I can’t understand the aversion by this Board to all measures calling for full disclosure and transparency in government, when these salaries and benefits are funded with the taxpayer’s money. I am committed to the people of this county to continue to carry forward reform measures that will provide transparent, ethical and fiscally responsible government.”
We can only agree with Mr. Souto. We, too, cannot understand the county commission’s aversion to an open and transparent form of government, unless there is something to hide. Souto’s proposal was the proper course to pursue. It would have been a huge step toward restoring some credibility to a badly damaged county commission that has very little left.