The Bureaucracy to End All Bureaucracies

The county's AIDS umbrella group draws fire from a Metro official -- and loses its executive director

In his March 19 letter of resignation, Kouri attempted to summarize HAPMO's gains during his tenure. "One of the primary goals of the first two years was to establish a sound, efficient and effective operational structure to serve as the foundation for the organization," he wrote. "That has been done.

"The arduous process of establishing and maintaining HAPMO's fiscal and operational viability and the circumstance in which they occurred has always been taken for granted," he went on to complain. "In the extremely complex, often contradictory, bureaucratic and convoluted world of federal and local government contract and regulations, HAPMO was able to achieve a superb rate of growth through diversification, while establishing an uniform, information-based approach to decision making."

Kouri's parting attempt to outline his organization's accomplishments came in the wake of a painstakingly detailed and critical five-page letter addressed to him from Beverly Mirman, then-director of the management services division of Metro's Audit and Management Services Department. (Mirman now works for another county agency.)

In that February 6 missive, Mirman lambasted HAPMO for its shoddily written Title I grant application. Calling it "the single most important document that impacts Dade County's funding levels for HIV/AIDS services in our community," Mirman cited HAPMO's "failure to use proper grammar and punctuation in the text," and noted that tables were incomplete and that letters of support were missing. This was the second year in a row that HAPMO had turned in an incoherent grant proposal, Mirman emphasized.

Mirman also listed numerous instances in which county policy had been violated and Florida's Sunshine Law had been disregarded, including HAPMO's failure to provide proper public notice of planning-council meetings, the abrupt termination of the audio recording of one meeting, and the refusal to provide council members with the original copy of a document that had been rewritten by HAPMO staff members without permission of the author (a subcontractor whose arrangement with HAPMO was itself a violation of HAPMO's contract with the county).

Kouri says the letter puts an unfair slant on HAPMO's activities. A month before it was written, he notes, HAPMO received a positive evaluation from the county. Moreover, Kouri says, he has since had a lengthy powwow with Dan Wall, the project director for Ryan White Title I programs for the Audit and Management Services Department, in which he assured Wall that the county's concerns would be adequately addressed. Kouri followed up that meeting with a February 29 letter to Wall responding to Mirman's criticisms. "HAPMO is undergoing a process of internal self-evaluation with the Board of Directors to assess our organizational structure in light of this and other concerns," he wrote.

Still, Kouri downplays Mirman's letter. "In the context of everything HAPMO does, the letter is minuscule," he contends.

Jeffrey Morris, who is acting as HAPMO's interim CEO while the board searches for a new executive director, is even more blunt. "I just took it that Beverly was having a bad day," Morris says. "If you look at the substance of what her concerns were, you're talking typos, you're talking writing style. There's nothing of substance there." Morris staunchly defends Kouri's leadership and HAPMO's accomplishments. "There are areas in which we could do better, but on the whole I think we have done an incredible job."

Wall, meanwhile, says that despite his conversation with Kouri, the county continues to have serious problems with HAPMO's performance and may seek to replace it with another organization next year.

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