County Execs Drive Expen$ive Car$ on the Taxpayers' Dime

The more Riptide dissects Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez's proposed budget cuts in order to make up a $427 million shortfall, the more we realize el alcalde fuerte is not gonna mess with his executive staff's perks. The mayor's spokeswoman, Vicki Mallette, confirmed Alvarez will not ax the approximately $101,200 a year the county sets aside for car allowances used by him, County Manager George Burgess, his assistant county managers, the assistants to the county manager, the special assistants to the county manager, and the executive assistant to the county manager. County commissioners and department directors will also continue to receive monthly car allowances.

Mallette defended her boss's actions even though Riptide doesn't see why taxpayers need to foot the bill for six-figure-earning bureaucrats to save money on their rides. For example, assistant county managers Cynthia Curry, Alina Hudak, and Ysela Llort, all of whom earn $200,000 plus annually, each gets $6,500 a year in car allowances.

"The mayor has made a number of unprecedented recommendations that cut deeper than any proposed budget in recent memory," Mallette said in a written response to questions. "Among the proposals, a five percent pay cut for all employees, a freeze in merit pay, and no more longevity bonuses."

So, scarce tax dollars will continue to subsidize Alvarez's luxury sedan, a 2008 BMW 650i coupe the county leased for him. According to the agreement with South Motors BMW, the county paid a lump sum of $41,552 for a two-year lease that ends in 2010. Of that amount, $19,200 was Alvarez's car allowance for two years. The difference is deducted from his paycheck on a monthly basis. In Burgess's case, the county leased him a 2007 Infiniti M45 for three years at $30,407. The lease ends in September. Mallette says the manager has not decided whether to lease another car or take the car allowance instead.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.