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With the $630 million Florida Marlins stadium deal teetering on collapse, one would think the agreement's chief architect would be around to quell any concerns elected officials might have about giving away the farm for the ballpark. But it seems Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess is not sweating it.
This past January 28, when the dated copies of the agreements were sent to Miami city commissioners and the Miami-Dade County Commission, Burgess took off for a ten-day snow-skiing vacation. He returned to work six days before both elected bodies were set to vote on the stadium; a vote that ended up being postponed. Two days later, Burgess took off on a seven-day Caribbean cruise.
Burgess's absentia has some county hall insiders wondering whether the longtime county pol is ready to step down. "It's like he's checked out already," says one prominent county hall lobbyist who asked not be identified. "It just seems odd that with his public works legacy hanging in the balance, he's on vacation."
Burgess still has three years before he hits his 30-year anniversary as a county employee, when he can retire and begin receiving his full pension, which will be upward of $200,000 a year. "Financially, it doesn't make sense for him to quit now," says County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez. "He'd have to get a really, really good offer from someone to leave."
However, Gimenez, like some of his colleagues, is irked that Burgess has not been around to answer their questions about the stadium deal. Burgess was not available for comment, but his spokesperson defended his time off. "George Burgess continues to serve with passion, energy, and commitment," Victoria Mallette said. "Talk of the county manager stepping down is merely idle chatter reminiscent of speculation about whether Fidel Castro is dead or alive."