Bert Gonzalez and David Karsh have left their jobs with Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff to work for the city's community redevelopment agencies. The personnel changes come after Sarnoff and Commissioner Richard Dunn II abandoned a controversial proposal to use $105,000 in taxpayer money meant for alleviating blight in Overtown and the Omni neighborhoods to shore up their office budgets. "I had zero to do with this," Sarnoff tells Banana Republican. "It came as a surprise to me."
The CRA's new executive director, Pieter Bockwig, says he offered Gonzalez and Karsh full-time jobs last week. "My first move is assembling a new leadership team aimed on improving the efficiency of the CRA," Bockwig says. "I want a staff that is proactive
in dealing with members of the media and one that brings a tremendous
base of knowledge and experience in dealing directly with the CRA
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Gonzalez is now making $105,000 a year as assistant director of the Omni CRA (double his pay with Sarnoff), and Karsh gets a 30 percent raise that will earn him $82,000 a year as communications and media relations director for the Overtown and Omni CRAs. While he was still Sarnoff's media liason, Karsh had won a bid to be the CRA's independently contracted spokesman. But that plan was abandoned after New Times questioned if the arrangement violated city rules barring Miami employees from doing business with city agencies. Karsh and an assistant city attorney said it did not, but the CRA never finalized the contract.
Bockwig explains that CRA personnel procedures allow him to hire anyone he wants without having to post the jobs. "The entire staff works at the will of the executive director," Bockwig says.
Does this mean Sarnoff will now have more sway on how the CRAs allocate money for projects? The commissioner says no way. "I didn't ask Pieter to hire them," Sarnoff says. "Bert and David are capable, good guys. They are a huge asset to the City of Miami."