Miami Audit Questions Overtime

The Miami-Dade Inspector Gen.’s office is taking Transp. Workers Union Local 291 to task, contending in an audit report that two top union bosses are raking in thousands a year in overtime pay auditors say was undeserved. The report’s finding that the Miami-Dade Transit Agency appears to be “subsidizing union activity” led County Manager Steve Shiver to discontinue the “Membership Assistance Program” program Aug. 2 in which the bosses worked as “peer counselors” to reduce absenteeism. Shiver said, “if the… findings are upheld, there needs to be serious and systematic action.”

“The public has paid a great deal of money for a program that has yielded no tangible results except to assign to those who administer it really huge salary increases,” said county Inspector Gen. Christopher Mazzella. Reportedly, Johnny Ellis, treasurer of Local 291, put in for 4,408 hours in 2000 with MDTA and was paid $69,693. That is 84.7 hours a week: better than twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Likewise, Local 291 vice president Joseph Johnson put in for 4,072 hours: the equivalent of eleven hours a day, seven days a week while receiving $66,790. Auditors also found “no supporting documentation to justify that overtime was actually worked.” MAP’s four other “peer counselors” are Local 291 shop steward Aaron Lee, Jr., and three Local 291 members Patricia Campbell-Cole, Pedro Flores, and Frank Thomas.

The report coincides with an ongoing criminal probe by the Miami-Dade County Atty.’s office into alleged misconduct by Local 291 bosses. The local’s president, Eddie L. Talley, was arrested July 2 and charged with misappropriating $80,000 in county and union funds.

Auditors criticized Miami-Dade officials for failing to provide even minimal supervision. “MAP representatives do not clock in or sign in to work each day. They have no supervisor to report to, and do not have a specific desk to maintain their paperwork. It is also unknown where the counseling sessions take place.” The audit also uncovered “serious deficiencies” in the system under which Local 291 reimburses the county for time its officers take away from their regular duties to handle union business. The audit states county officials failed to collect reimbursements on a timely basis, allowing Local 291’s debt to exceed $100,000. The report also calls for ending the repayment system saying this would prevent “taxpayer dollars from subsidizing union activity.” [Miami Herald 8/3/01]