APRIL 17, 2008
Top administrators and elected officials in an upscale south Florida city are being investigated by a county public corruption unit for illegally and rampantly wasting taxpayer dollars by using city-issued credit cards for personal purchases, alcohol and expensive meals at upscale restaurants.
From the mayor to the city manager and even the city attorney, it appears that officials in Coral Gables, located in Miami-Dade County with about 40,000 residents, have been boozing it up and feeding their friends and families with taxpayer dollars. They do it regularly by charging their expenses to city-issued credit cards with high limits—some up to $15,000—that seldom get scrutinized.
The corruption was first exposed by the local town newspaper, the Coral Gables Gazette, and has since been covered by state and national media. In violation of city rules, the mayor (Don Slesnick) and city manager (David Brown) regularly consume large amounts of alcohol, which they charge to taxpayers, during “city business” meals at exclusive local eateries. One of many receipts obtained by the Gazette shows a nearly $200 charge on a city card for steak dinner and free-flowing wine.
Both men have repeatedly violated city regulations prohibiting holders of the cards, known as P-cards, from using them to purchase alcohol under any circumstances. Another multiple violator is the city attorney (Elizabeth Hernandez) who refuses to itemize costly lunch tabs that include alcohol after the local paper obtained the receipts through public records requests.
Initially, the public officials running this well-to-do city brushed off the local paper’s inquiries and the mayor even justified the scandalous waste as an employee right. They seem a bit more concerned, however, since officers from the renowned public corruption unit of the Miami-Dade County Police Department descended upon City Hall.
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