Joseph Mitrani was given the job of overseeing construction of a new training facility for the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department.
Mitrani was instrumental in making sure the project was completed on time and under budget, according to department spokeswoman Elizabeth Calzadilla-Fiallo. Score one for government efficiency, right? Err, not really.
Fire Chief Herminio Lorenzo and his number two guy, Deputy Chief
Alfredo Suarez, violated county hiring procedures and created a
conflict of interest when Mitrani was tapped for his assignment says a recently released report by the Miami-Dade Inspector General's office.
Watchdog investigators concluded Lorenzo and Suarez used MCM Corp., the company building the training center, to pay for Mitrani when the engineer could not be hired as a full-time county employee. By doing so, the fire department's top leaders avoided going before the County Commission to hire Mitrani. The conflict of interest created: Mitrani was getting his checks from the contractor he was supposed to be supervising.
"Instead of openly proceeding through the front door," wrote Inspector
General Christopher Mazzella, "Miami-Dade Fire Rescue shielded the
arrangement by ushering Mr. Mitrani through the back door via
Lorenzo and Suarez responded via department spokeswoman, Elizabeth
Calzadilla-Fiallo. "They acknowledge making a mistake,"
Calzadilla-Fiallo says. "However, it was not done with criminal or
malicious intent. Mr. Mitrani was retained to protect the interests of
the taxpayers. And indeed, he is responsible for bringing the project
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on schedule and under budget."
Still, Lorenzo should know better. He's the department director for crissakes. The chief's actions detailed in this report show a blatant disregard for following the rules. No wonder the fire union and the rank-and-file have lost respect for Lorenzo.
Read the report below: