New DDA Chief

Miami's troubled Downtown Development Authority is on the verge of hiring a new leader— one who knows a little something about image, especially when it comes to streets and natural disasters.

And that newbie will be assisted by a Miami city employee who now works for a city department where nearly a dozen employees were arrested not long ago.

The DDA, an entity that taxes property owners to market and promote downtown Miami, has been looking for an interim director ever since January, when Dana Nottingham announced his intention to resign following a report from the city's auditor general that criticized the agency's record keeping, hiring of consultants, and purchasing of equipment. The audit also stated Nottingham lived in Virginia during the first six months he filled the $220,000 a year job in 2003.

A search committee recently gave the nod to Alyce Marie Robertson, Miami-Dade County's community image manager since 2004.

A 29-year county bureaucrat, her main job is to work with the state and city governments to make streets look pretty—especially when there is a high profile event like the Super Bowl in town. Her other job title is “special assignment for emergencies.” In that role Robertson coordinates some county employees in the event of a disaster like a hurricane.

Her resumé doesn’t mention any damage control for political scandals that have from time to time whacked Miami-Dade County government.

And at the suggestion of DDA executive board chairman and Miami Commissioner Joe Sanchez, the agency will seek to borrow Meredith Joy Nation from the city of Miami. A Magic City employee for eight years, and a contract manager in the capital improvements office since February 2006, she’s accomplished at least one important thing: avoiding arrest. In June of 2006, 11 out of 14 employees in capital improvements' design and construction department were charged with fraud and racketeering. They weren’t working, prosecutors say. At least not for taxpayers. The 11 employees were instead hiring themselves out to private companies and individuals on city time and using city resources.

“I was blissfully unaware,” responds Nation, when asked what it was like when her colleagues were marched away in handcuffs. Since she worked in the contracts section, contact was “minimal” with the miscreants, Nation says. Working for the DDA is part of her task of “revitalizing”” Miami. “I believe in downtown and I am a person that has a lot of creative ideas and energy,” she adds.

The executive board of the DDA will vote up or down Robertson's hiring on March 7. Also pending: Nottingham's $181,000 severance package.

Erik Bojnansky

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse