Miami Springs Hires a Financially Troubled City Clerk

Ever ask for a raise before you've even started a job? That's exactly what Erika Gonzalez-Santamaria did after she was offered a $71,850 gig as the new city clerk for Miami Springs. She accepted the job but asked for $75,000 and was granted that boost before she begins April 1.

Then again, maybe she could use the cash. Federal records show Gonzalez-Santamaria filed for bankruptcy in 2011, claiming $737,754 in debt — including more than a half-million on two mortgages and $33,000 in unpaid loans for cars such as a Lexus.

City Attorney Jan Seiden says he can't figure out why anyone would care about Gonzalez-Santamaria's personal finances. But Seiden also admitted that despite a background check on the new clerk, he had no idea the extent of her bankruptcy case.

"How much?" he asked. "And to whom? I've never heard of anything like that."

It's not as if Miami Springs as a municipality has the best recent record for financial management. One of the town's best-known landmarks, the Glenn Curtiss Mansion, began falling apart one year after the completion of a $4.5 million renovation. The city's golf course, meanwhile, has lost $8 million over a decade while helmed by a director with multiple DUIs and drug arrests.

Gonzalez-Santamaria, who graduated from Florida International University in 2004 and worked in city government in Southwest Ranches, Cutler Bay, and Pinecrest, will fill the post of city clerk. On her application for the Miami Springs job, she noted "budget development" and "risk management" as areas in which she is proficient. She also noted having assisted with budget preparation in Pinecrest and having prepared the budget for Cutler Bay, where she served from 2006 to 2010.

Although acting city clerk Suzanne S. Hitaffer says the position does not entail handling city funds, Gonzalez-Santamaria will oversee one of the town's biggest special elections in years. On April 8, voters will decide through a referendum what to do with a 10,299-square-foot parcel abutting their troubled golf course.

Gonzalez-Santamaria didn't return multiple calls left on her cell phone. Her bankruptcy case remains open in federal court.

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Allie Conti was a fellow at Miami New Times and a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, where her writing won awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. She's now the senior staff writer at Vice and a contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Atlantic.