It’s hard to believe Miami-Dade County is still debating commissioners’ discretionary spending.
It’s hard to believe, because it’s impossible to understand why these no-rules accounts still exist. And it’s even more difficult to comprehend why $3 million in office budgets is currently stockpiled, saved for rainy days ranging from worthy causes to pet projects.
Commissioners get $814,000 individual office budgets. But as the Miami Herald reported Sunday, they are not required to use the resources strictly for office expenses such as employee salaries, the electric bill or supplies. So even though the infamous “Discretionary Reserve” – better known as “the commission slush fund” – was eliminated two years ago, commissioners still have a fat pile of money they can give to whomever they wish, with limited oversight.
Slush funds were eliminated from one account and permitted in another. Sounds like a shell game.
That means Bruno Barreiro can spend $18,000 busing seniors to District 5 events, without ever explaining who got a ride where. What criteria were used to determine who received backpacks from Commissioner Sally Heyman’s $5,000 book bag allotment?
What’s worse: Commissioners are permitted – by county statute – to carry over unused money. That must come in handy at election time. It’s no wonder that it has historically been difficult, if not impossible, to unseat an incumbent commissioner.
Right now Heyman has $800,000 stashed away. Jose “Pepe” Diaz is sitting on $461,000, Bruno Barreiro has $361,000, and Dennis Moss $354,000.
That has to stop.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez (a former commissioner who never said No to these monies) says he’s going to change the rules. Facing a $400 million deficit, the county should apply a “use it or lose it” rule and put tight controls on discretionary spending.
But it’s the County Commission that gets to decide its own spending.
A recent analysis showed about nine percent of their office budgets are spent this way, with little fiscal control. (…)