On the contrary, as recently as last week, acting city manager Yvette Harrell threw all caution to the wind when she pillaged a restricted account in order to cover payroll checks. Apparently, the Ghost of Kelvin Baker still haunts Opa-locka City Hall.
Although he resigned as city manager last July (and was quickly snatched up by the City of Lauderdale Lakes), his Opa-locka protégés apparently took their cue from Kelvin’s “very special brand of creative budgeting” by illegally depleting reserve accounts to cover municipal expenses.
The fund that Ms. Harrell tapped into was a “bond reserve set aside to pay investors in case Opa-locka failed to make its payments on the City Hall purchase,” according to a June 21, 2016 Miami Herald article, Opa-locka targeted in new federal probe.
In addition to its current investigation of public corruption by the FBI, Opa-locka has now come under scrutiny by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for “the city’s controversial purchase last year of its gleaming City Hall in a major bond deal that was approved while the city was quietly bleeding millions in tax revenues,” according to the Herald.
Not only did Yvette Harrell’s withdrawal of approximately $600,000.00 violate the terms of the bond agreement, which requires that Opa-locka maintain a specific level of funding in the restricted account, but she unilaterally made the decision to do so without council approval.
As a result of her actions, Harrell was confronted by the city’s Finance Director Charmaine Parchment, who had already publicly exposed Opa-locka’s financial troubles in May, and by Budget Director Keith Carswell, who both “demanded the city manager take the plan to the city’s bond lawyers and the city commission.”
In response, Harrell fired the Budget Director, who in turn is now suing the city for unlawful termination.
Who didn’t see that coming?
Overstating the obvious, Keith Carswell’s attorney told the Herald, “You do not tap into bond reserve funds that have been pledged to secure a bond offering.”
It should be noted that Carswell’s attorney is Mayor Michael Pizzi of Miami Lakes “fame”, who also stated with no trace of irony, “It was one of the most irresponsible things that I have ever heard in my 30 years of government.”
As the Miami Herald article noted, this new examination of the bond issues “will allow federal investigators to gain a true picture of the city’s financial conditions.”
Accordingly, it’s impossible to believe that Kelvin Baker, who mismanaged Opa-locka for three years, will escape the SEC’s scrutiny.
While Opa-locka residents are understandably outraged by the massive corruption uncovered at City Hall, not to mention the outright theft of their hard earned tax dollars, they cannot absolve themselves entirely from the disaster they created when they voted for criminals time and time again.
If nothing else, the bitter lesson that Opa-lockans should learn from this debacle is that elections have consequences.
“Spreading the Wealth”