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You'd think a bitter, months-long street brawl over how to hack millions out of Miami's budget might teach public servants to be careful with taxpayers' cash.
Exhibit A: Shirley Richardson, who got canned way back in January as executive director of the Civilian Investigative Panel, the voter-created group that polices the Miami Police Department.
Richardson rarely showed up for work, panel members say, and she was a terrible manager when she did. To top it off, she demanded an 8 percent raise of her $168,000 annual salary during the worst financial crisis in 80 years. When the panel tried to take away her monthly $200 cell phone allowance and $800 car stipend, she threw a fit.
City Manager Pete Hernandez apparently didn't take well to demands that Richardson actually earn her taxpayer dollars. Declaring in August to CBS4 that "the budget is my domain," Hernandez gave Richardson a job in his office and let her keep her six-figure salary.
Now, Riptide has learned, Hernandez is demanding that the CIP rehire Richardson as an $85,000-a-year investigator. City Attorney Julie Bru sent a memo to the panel earlier this month claiming the city has the right to force the supposedly independent panel to take back the deadbeat administrator.
Combined with an expected 50 percent decrease in the board's overall budget, the move would leave Miami's independent police review board all but toothless.
"It would be outrageous for us to take her back at that salary after we fired her," says Janet McAliley, the panel's vice chair. "Her salary would cripple our ability to do investigations."
If you're not familiar with the CIP, flash back to the scary old days circa 2002, when the Miami PD was capping suspects left and right (often unarmed people in the back) and beating up anyone who looked sideways at a cop.
After the Department of Justice investigated, voters overwhlemingly chose to create the panel and make it independent of the city government.
The panel began with a $1.1 million budget, which paid for investigators and administrators. If the proposed city budget goes through this Thursday, the group will be down to $464,000.
Rudy De La Guardia, a panel member, says taking on Richardson as an $85,000 investigator — almost a quarter of the entire budget — would mean laying off the three other investigators and cutting back on administrative costs. "She was already fired because she didn't do the work she was supposed to do," he says.