Gimenez "gross negligence" costs taxpayers $4 MILLION...

Miami Herald

Construction project way over budget thanks to ‘gross negligence’ by Miami-Dade


  • Gimenez "gross negligence" costs taxpayers $4 MILLION...
  • Gimenez gambles with county budget...
  • Gimenez gambles with taxpayer moneys...
  • The Internal Services Director is undertaking at least 7 different disciplinary actions as a result of this mismanagement, up to and including TERMINATION...

Cost overruns at a county center have Mayor Carlos Gimenez citing “gross negligence” by his administration for a mistake that could cost taxpayers $4 million. 

The new parking garage and courtroom renovations at the Joseph Caleb Center in Liberty City are running about 13 percent above budget. And that could get worse. A scathing memo from Gimenez states the project has “at least” a $3.5 million shortfall, thanks to his purchasing department not tracking a mounting string of overruns. 

“The magnitude of this shortfall demonstrates the gross negligence and mismanagement of this project by certain individuals within the Internal Services Department,” he wrote. “The Internal Services Director is undertaking at least 7 different disciplinary actions as a result of this mismanagement, up to and including termination.”

It’s being run as a patchwork of construction projects, with one contractor, ABC Construction, finishing up the parking garage while another, MCM, gets started on the ground-floor atrium. Smith said the contractors were not at fault, but that the blame rests with her department not tracking a dwindling amount of money left to spend on a project currently budgeted at $28 million.

The unusually harsh language in the mayor’s memo describing his own administration comes as Miami International Airport awaits the lifting of a procurement freeze there after vendors pressed for relief from some of the county-run facility’s contracting decisions. And the Caleb situation arrives ahead of the County Commission considering a 2018 budget with flat property-tax rates and a string of austerity measures, including cuts to the county’s transit system. 

In an interview, Smith largely blamed the incident on a project manager she declined to name. She said the manager did not adhere to a cumbersome process of reconciling expenses with the county’s “antiquated” financial systems that aren’t able to present a project’s budget particulars on a single screen. 

“Our legacy systems aren’t talking to each other,” Smith said.

Internal Services is the county’s procurement and contracting arm for projects that aren’t managed by individual agencies, like MIA or PortMiami. It manages about $310 million worth of construction projects a year, meaning the Caleb project represents about 10 percent of the total. “It’s one of our bigger projects,” she said. 

Miami-Dade is funding the Caleb construction through the county’s special property tax dedicated to debt, and the project is a tiny component of a $2.9 billion borrowing plan approved in 2004 as part of the county’s Building Better Communities bond program. Smith said the overruns will be absorbed by cuts elsewhere in her department’s construction budget. In his memo, Gimenez said savings also could come from the Caleb project itself. 

Smith said Internal Services already has a procedure to warn the department when the budget-control process isn’t being followed, but that those warnings weren’t acted on for Caleb. “These alerts were supposedly received, but ignored,” she said. “As a leader, and the person responsible for this department, I have to depend on the people in my department to do their job.”

A rendering of the county-funded renovation to the Joseph Caleb Center in Miami’s Liberty City. The $28 million project, launched in 2014, is about 13 percent over budget and the county is citing “gross negligence” on the government’s part as the reason. 


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