Former Miami Bigwig Christine Morales Resigns After Getting Caught Skipping Work by Union
On September 10, dozens of belligerent Miamians will storm city hall for the first public hearing on a brutal 2010 budget proposal.
Commissioners will likely slash more than 60 city jobs and cut back everything from cops to trash pickup.
Sadly, Christine Morales won't get the ax.
Instead, this former bag woman for disgraced former city and county Commissioner Miriam Alonso will enjoy a tidy $36,000 gift from taxpayers and prepare to spend a hefty pension. Last month, Mayor Manny Diaz allowed her to resign from a $112,000-per-year job even though hours of surveillance tape showed her routinely showing up to the office hours late, taking long lunch breaks, and heading home in the early afternoon.
The tapes come courtesy of union boss Charlie Cox, who paid a private eye to tail Morales after she canned two union employees for tardiness. "You fuck with my people and I'm going to fuck with you," he says.
Ya gotta love Miami.
Christine Morales and her family have a long and, um, storied history at city hall. Twenty years ago, Christine's mom, Elba, was a close associate of then-city Commissioner Alonso. When Alonso hopped over to county hall in the late '90s after a failed mayoral bid, Elba became her chief of staff. And when Alonso, the henna-haired hag of Dinner Key, decided to use her campaign treasury as a slush fund, Elba happily helped move the money — and recruited her daughter to do the same, according to federal records and press reports from the time.
Christine eventually admitted to cashing $8,500 in checks illicitly given to Alonso as spending money. But when Elba turned snitch and helped send the politician to prison, neither Morales was prosecuted. Alonso got four months in lockup.
Back then, Christine Morales worked as director of the Wynwood Neighborhood Enhancement Team. She was suspended without pay for six weeks for her role in the scandal — but was allowed to keep her job.
Last year, she earned a promotion to the six-figure post as the building department's assistant director. This past February, she fired a typist named Anicie Rodriguez, citing excessive tardiness and infuriating Cox, who says Morales was routinely late to meetings he attended.
So in May, Cox paid a detective to follow Morales from her sprawling ranch home with a red-tiled roof. The result is an instructional video on wasting taxpayer money. Here are some highlights:
May 13: Christine Morales's dark blue Mustang convertible pulls into the City of Miami's Riverside complex just before 10 a.m. Ten minutes later, she strolls inside, chatting on a cell phone.
An hour and a half later, she drives away for lunch. She returns at 2:55, puts in a good three hours, and heads home at 6:13.
A solid four hours at the office.
May 14: The Mustang rolls from Morales's home a little after 10 a.m. (Side note: Turn signals are not her strong point.) Twenty minutes later, she's at the Riverside complex. Rocking big-ass sunglasses, she strolls in just before 10:20. Lunch lasts from 12:30 till 1:37. At 5:13, after a grueling five-and-a-half-hour day in the books, she heads home.
May 15: Early start! The Mustang actually leaves her house by 9 a.m. and she's in the office by 9:20, lugging a small briefcase and a bottle of water. At 12:17, she heads to lunch and returns at 2:02 p.m. with a Styrofoam box of leftovers. At 4:49, Morales heads home. Long day! Almost six hours in the office.
May 19: She strolls into the complex just before 10. It's lunchtime at 12:40 at La Gran Via Bakery, with a quick stop at El Nuevo Siglo Supermarket. At 1:52, back to work. Morales, clearly exhausted, heads home just past 5 p.m.
May 22: Morales completes her customary 10 a.m. walk into the office. Just before 11, she leaves with a group of co-workers. They stop at someone's home for a half-hour and then spend a solid hour at Broadway Art & Framing. Art shopping ensues. A little after noon, the exhausted group retires to Mr. Yum Restaurant for some much-needed rejuvenation. They return to work around 1:15 — except for Christine, who hangs out in the garage, hugging a friend and chatting with a couple of potbellied dudes for another ten minutes. Bushed, she heads home at 4:50, lugging a large bouquet of flowers.
May 26: Rolls in at the eye-busting hour of 9:41 a.m. Shocked by the early start, she heads home by 3:40 p.m. The Mustang is parked in her driveway by 4:10.
June 8: Lumbers into work at 10:37 on the dot. At 12:20, it's back to Mr. Yum with a friend. Returns to work at 1:40. At 5:45 p.m., she's home free.
June 12: Gets to the office just before 9:30. Lunch at 11:37 with a chain-smoking friend in a black hoodie. Back in the office around 1:15. Goes home before 5:30.
Tough life, right? Confronted with the tapes and detective reports, Morales submitted a resignation letter to the city July 28. Because she wasn't fired, the city gave her a severance package that included cash for unused vacation and sick days. The total: $36,742.45.
On top of that, she is vested in the city's pension program. That means that when she turns 55, she'll earn 33 percent of her salary — which adds up to $36,960 — every year.
City spokeswoman Kelly Penton said in an email that Morales "opted to separate from the city after a discussion with the administration over concerns related to her tardiness, work hours, etc." Penton didn't respond to a later inquiry about why Morales was allowed to quit rather than be canned.
Contacted by New Times, Morales declined to talk on the record about the resignation, except to say that "every person I've worked for in the city has been better for me being there."
Morales's resignation letter, perhaps unintentionally, was more telling. In it, she wrote, "Here I have learned what public service can and should mean, as well as what it does and does not mean. Indeed, I have seen the wings of Icarus ablaze."
Cox says he has been videotaping 11 other city employees — all assistant directors or higher on the food chain. Whenever he releases the rest of his tapes, expect to see a few more wings go up in flames.
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