By Chuck Strouse
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By Terrence McCoy
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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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Two weeks ago the New Times story "They Owe It All to Odio" addressed the issue of the City of Miami's practice of hiring so-called unclassified and temporary employees. The lion's share of these workers, who bypassed the city's civil-service hiring procedures, were brought onboard by Cesar Odio before the city manager resigned last fall amid federal corruption allegations.
The story chronicled a journey through the bureaucracy in search of an employee named Ramon Conte; though the Bay of Pigs veteran and former political prisoner was listed as having been a part-time staffer since 1987, no one in any of the city's offices seemed to know who he was or what duties he performed to earn his $12,000 annual salary. In fact, when confronted at the Brigade 2506 clubhouse in Little Havana, where he is a historian, Conte himself asserted that he was employed by the Brigade, not the city. Even after being shown current copies of official weekly attendance reports with his signature scrawled beneath the word STAFF, he remained insistent.
Effective February 21, a day after the New Times article was published, the city has one fewer temporary/unclassified employee: Ramon Conte has been fired.
When he arrived at Riverside Center to pick up his biweekly paycheck on that Friday, Conte was handed a memo from Elbert Waters, director of the Department of Community Development, whose budget funded Conte's position. "This is to advise you that your temporary employment with the City of Miami will end effective today," Waters wrote in the memo.
No explanation was given for the termination, and Waters refuses to comment about it, preferring to let his memo speak for itself. "That's a public record," he says.
According to Angela Bellamy, head of the city's Department of Human Resources, the city has no system of checks and balances to assess the qualifications or job performance of the unclassified and temporary employees. All together, the 90-plus Odio hires still on the payroll cost the city more than $3.25 million each year in salaries.
Bellamy's staffers report that the human resources department received several calls last week from Miami residents upset about the city's hiring practices. One caller demanded that Miami officials recoup from Conte all the money the city has paid him (more than $100,000) "because he obviously was hired under false pretenses."
Others wanted to know what additional efforts are being made to evaluate the unclassified/temporary employees still on the payroll.
Evidently, aside from Conte's dismissal, none whatsoever.