No city does "comedically blatant public corruption" quite like Miami. Case in point: A Miami-Dade County Public Schools principal was arrested yesterday for allegedly using taxpayer money to pay his at-home nanny/housekeeper for two years before anybody noticed or bothered to tell the police.
Yesterday former principal Joey Bautista was arrested on charges of grant theft, misconduct, and organizing a scheme to defraud the public. The school district's inspector general took a look at Bautista's payroll records and noticed he'd hired a woman for a school custodial job but instead had her clean his home and watch his kids. All three charges, which were also investigated by Miami Beach Police and the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, are felonies.
Bautista, who is 48, had been the principal of the Miami Jackson Adult Education Center, which operates out of Miami Jackson Senior High. He held the job from July 2011 to this past June, when he was transferred to the Miami Beach Adult Education Center. Bautista allegedly diverted $41,798 in taxpayer cash to the housekeeper.
An investigative report released by the State Attorney's Office notes the housekeeper "stated that in January 2013, Mr. Bautista, who was the principal for the MJA Center, hired her to work for M-DCPS as a custodian for the MJA Center." But, the woman said, "she never worked at the MJA Center's main location." Instead, after working at Toussaint L'Ouverture Elementary for four months, she was "subsequently assigned, by Mr. Bautista, to work at Mr. Bautista's home as a cleaning lady and nanny" from March 29, 2013, until September 24, 2015.
She told investigators she cleaned, cooked, and took care of Bautista's two preteen children, all while knowingly getting paid by the school district for her work. Investigators searched the school district's payroll records: Investigators said Bautista signed off personally on the records certifying his housekeeper's work every two weeks.
It appears Bautista transferred payments for his existing nanny/housekeeper to the school district's payroll. Investigators said Bautista's personal checking account records show that from August 2011 to October 2012, he paid her for housekeeping services.
In a hilariously incriminating move, the housekeeper was magically transferred back to the school district after another administrator — North Miami Adult Education Center Principal Jean Ridore — was arrested on corruption charges for taking a bribe to pay a no-show employee in a scheme remarkably similar to Bautista's housekeeper plot. When Bautista's nanny suddenly appeared back at school one day, a confidential informant apparently thought that seemed weird and notified investigators.
When investigators questioned Bautista, he claimed the woman had worked as a "floater" between different buildings and his home and was paid "with cash and checks" for the services she provided to him personally. Bautista stressed to the authorities that the nanny also worked at the school during the time she was getting paid, but multiple district employees said they had no idea who she was, and the housekeeper herself was unable to identify the people she'd allegedly worked among for two years.
Investigators said Bautista agreed to hand over copies of checks he paid the woman "but failed to do so" as of Tuesday.
“Taxpayers should be outraged when their hard-earned dollars are stolen by greedy public officials for their private gain," Miami-Dade County Inspector General Mary T. Cagle said in a news release. "These types of frauds, committed by dishonest public servants, will continue to be the focus of [Office of Inspector General] investigations.”
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.