A Public Servant Goes Public

She ran her department like a pro, but she possessed one thing Alex Penelas and Steve Shiver couldn't tolerate: Integrity

Moss, however, couldn't prevent Shiver from sabotaging Team Metro in other ways. While on medical leave earlier this year, Curtin had appointed Michael Anderson as acting director of Team Metro. Anderson had been with the department since its inception, and Curtin trusted him to faithfully oversee the agency in her absence.

But as soon as Curtin resigned, Shiver removed Anderson as acting director and replaced him with Vivian Guzman, who had been heading up Team Metro's enforcement section. Within weeks of her appointment, Guzman was pressured by Cuervo-Schreiber to cancel citations issued against a politically connected business.

The company, Ad For You, provides litter bins at bus stops, and sells advertising space on those bins. Owned by Humberto Cortina, a former state representative, the company's contract with Miami-Dade Transit had expired but kept receiving extensions from county officials. Finally even the extensions ran out, and when Cortina failed to remove the bins, he began receiving citations.

Deborah Curtin decided she couldn't fight cancer and Steve Shiver simultaneously, so she left county government
Steve Satterwhite
Deborah Curtin decided she couldn't fight cancer and Steve Shiver simultaneously, so she left county government

Cortina had the right to appeal the tickets if he believed they were issued unfairly. And Team Metro officials even helped him set up a hearing before a special master. But rather than allow the appeals process to proceed, Vivian Guzman was ordered by Alicia Cuervo-Schreiber to cancel the fines. Upset by Cuervo-Schreiber's demands, Guzman complained privately to Curtin. "Vivian wasn't comfortable with what was going on, and she would call me for advice," Curtin says.

Guzman confirms she was instructed to void the tickets, adding that she demanded Cuervo-Schreiber place her order in writing before she would carry it out. "I wouldn't do it based on a verbal instruction from Alicia," Guzman reports. "I didn't understand why we were voiding the tickets for this individual."

Guzman says she learned that Cortina, who has political connections throughout county hall, met with both Cuervo-Schreiber and another assistant county manager, Pete Hernandez, to discuss his citations, which, according to Guzman, would have resulted in fines amounting to "several thousand dollars." (Cortina could not be reached for comment. Calls to his home went unanswered, and his business phone has been disconnected.) According to Curtin, the Cortina case is the first time in Team Metro's seven-year history that someone from the manager's office ordered a citation to be voided. (New Times has learned that the county ethics commission has launched an investigation into the incident and may be looking at other cases in which citations issued against another politically connected business were recently voided.)

Not long after the Cortina tickets were voided, Guzman resigned from the county and is now working for the City of Miami Beach. She doesn't blame the Cortina incident entirely, saying a number of events influenced her decision to leave, including her opposition to Shiver's efforts to move code enforcement to the police department, as well as a great opportunity with Miami Beach.

Morale inside Team Metro is low, Curtin says, noting that quality people are being forced to resign. For example, Michael Anderson, the man she trusted to run the department in her absence, has been targeted by Shiver and Cuervo-Schreiber. Curtin asserts they are searching for grounds to fire him because he refuses to act as their puppet. They are harassing Anderson the same way they would have harassed her had she decided to stay.

Curtin received word this past June that the cancer had spread to her ribs and the bones in her shoulder. She is taking powerful medications in hopes of controlling the spread of the disease. But despite her own setbacks, she can't help but worry about the future of Team Metro. Her former employees, she believes, deserve better than they are receiving under Shiver and Penelas. And more important, so do the people of Miami-Dade County.

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