Last week, when a group of City of Miami employees were busted for operating a private business on the city’s time and dime, it wasn’t the Miami Herald that broke the story. And no, it wasn’t New Times either. It was the good folks at Miami Monthly magazine, a slick glossy known more for its “rah-rah-sis-boom-bah” approach to covering civic affairs.
Eleven employees, who dubbed themselves “The Firm,” were arrested on multiple felonies, including racketeering and grand theft this past Thursday, the same day Miami Monthly published its exclusive in the July issue. “We had an anonymous source come to us several months ago,” publisher Elena Carpenter said during a recent interview. “We kept it quiet until the criminal investigation was completed.”
Carpenter and managing editor Judith Faerron penned a six-page article detailing how the accused public servants, former and current staffers for the city’s capital improvement and zoning departments, were producing engineering plans for private clients using city-owned computers and during regular business hours, when they were supposed to be working on Miami’s capital improvement projects.
Before publishing the story, Carpenter contacted several sources, including State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, both of whom confirmed The Firm was going down. “We earned the trust and respect of the state attorney’s office,” Carpenter says. “And a few days before the press conference, they shared with us graphics and material that enhanced our story.”
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Despite the general impression Miami Monthly is nothing more than a promotional vehicle for Miami’s civic leaders, Carpenter says she has no problem running more hard news in the magazine. “I would love to do this more often if I had the staff,” she professes. “But promoting Miami is not a bad thing. This city is a great place to live.” --Francisco Alvarado