Burgess' contract is fine, Alvarez says
By Wayne Tompkins
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez said Tuesday that he will affirm the terms of County Manager George Burgess' contract when it expires in June, seeking to clarify confusion over how the manager will be compensated under the county's new strong-mayor government.
The mayor also reaffirmed his plans to keep Mr. Burgess on board, saying his experience will be invaluable as the county faces a difficult budgeting period.
Mr. Burgess reports directly to the mayor rather than to the county commission, which negotiated his contract that pays more than $400,000 a year in total compensation. The contract is to renew automatically June 12.
Commissioner Carlos Gimenez has raised concerns that continuing the existing contract under the new system could breed a host of legal problems. Under the strong-mayor system voters approved in January, the contract would leave the mayor's employee in the awkward position of working under compensation the commission negotiated.
"I believe that we may be in violation of the charter," Mr. Gimenez said. "The charter … clearly states: "The county manager's compensation shall be set by the mayor.'"
The charter, the county equivalent of a constitution, dictates the structure, powers and functions of most elements of county government.
The Budget and Finance Committee on Tuesday urged the mayor to affirm the terms of Mr. Burgess' contract or negotiate a new compensation agreement to submit to county commissioners by the renewal date.
Mr. Alvarez said Tuesday that is not a problem.
"I intend to affirm the current contract," he said. "If they want me to present it under my name, that's fine."
While the mayor will propose the county manager's compensation package, it is subject to the commission's approval.
"This came as no surprise," Mr. Alvarez said. "I have met with Commissioner Gimenez many times" to discuss the issue.
Mr. Burgess makes $320,683 per year, with additional benefits bringing the total to $412,138.
The committee's request to Mr. Alvarez was made in place of another resolution sponsored by Mr. Gimenez calling for the county to terminate its compensation agreement with Mr. Burgess.
"The mayor can continue to employ the county manager on whatever terms the two of them agree to," County Attorney Murray Greenberg said.
Not all of the commissioners shared Mr. Gimenez' sense of urgency.
"I don't think this is necessary," Commissioner Katy Sorenson said. "The way I read the charter, the contract is between the county and George Burgess. If the person now in charge is the mayor, then that transfers automatically to the mayor with the charter change."
While most commissioners on the committee assured Mr. Burgess that the debate was not directed at him personally, the county manager could not resist getting off one zinger — quipping to Mr. Gimenez, "I'm not paranoid, I just think you're out to get me."
"Paranoia is a good thing," Mr. Gimenez said.