Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez campaigned on being tight with the taxpayers money, so when he was criticized for giving several of his top staffers big fat pay raises in this time of foreclosures and economic crisis, he fought back.
"The bottom line is that in the last four years, you will see that there has been a reduction of $2.7 million dollars of the executive offices of the mayor," Alvarez said yesterday.
The salary hikes, made last October and confirmed by Alvarez yesterday, are hefty. A 54 percent raise for Communications Director Victoria Mallette (now making $124,999 per year) was the steepest. Others, like Chief of Staff Denis Morales, got a bump of 11 percent ($206,783 annual salary). The salary raises, given to 12 employees, totaled in the neighborhood of $90,000, according to the Miami Herald.
"It was quite a surprise. It was things that when I looked at it I went 'whoa! how can this person be making this much and this salary retroactive to this time?'" said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez. "It's unfortunate."
The news of the raises comes as county commissioners are looking at every way they can to cut expenses from the budget.
"I cannot tell the mayor 'You hire this guy, you not hire this guy,or fire that guy .' Because that's his job and that's the administrator's job, that's why he's a strong mayor," said Commissioner Pepe Diaz. "But within that amount of money, he has to solve the issues as we present [them] to him."
Alvarez called the criticism of his salary hikes a smokescreen. He said that he had already reduced his staff from 76 to 59 and added that the employees who received raises also took on more responsibility.
"It totals $90,000. The budget shortfall, the revenue shortfall they have to deal with is $427 million dollars. So I don't think we should be confusing apples and oranges," Alvarez said.