TAMPA -- A major outrage is brewing in the city of Tampa over the mayor and the highest-paid employee in the city violating the city charter - and they've been doing it for more than five years. 10Investigates broke the story and has found there are several problems with what is happening.
We've established that the Chief Financial Officer of the city of Tampa, Sonya Little, who is making $190,000 a year, doesn't live in the city.
By living in Hillsborough County instead of Tampa Little is violating the city charter requiring her to be a city resident. That is a requirement she hasn't upheld since being appointed in 2011. Meanwhile, her boss, mayor Bob Buckhorn, says it's no big deal because Little is the interim CFO.
“The charter allows someone to be in an interim position,” Buckhorn insisted, adding, “We are not violating the charter.”
Well, Mayor, if that were true, it would be nice, but it's not on either account. The city charter does not mention any interim positions and it requires the mayor within 30 days of taking office to appoint heads of all departments, not interim heads.
Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda, who has been on and off the council since the ‘70s, said, “If it says that, it has to be adhered to.”
Miranda, who has high praise for Little's performance as CFO, says she should move to the city despite a promise the mayor made.
The mayor explained, “I told her when she came here, I wasn't going to make her take a (financial) loss on her house.”
However, public records seem to indicate that wouldn't be the case and she would most likely make a profit if she sold her home today.
Council chairman Mike Suarez wasn’t aware of the mayor’s promise, saying, “The first time I ever heard about the mayor's commitment to her was on your report. Obviously, that commitment was something we aren't privy to or knew about.”
Suarez also says Little needs to be a city resident and so do most of you, who responded on social media with comments like "This is truly what’s wrong with government”; “When someone isn't following little rules, there is every reason to think they may be showing contempt for all rules”; "Typical Tampa city policy, cherry picking what rules to enforce and whom the rules apply to.”
Suarez adds, “We have to follow all the rules and I think that is an important rule because we want people who serve our city, especially in senior positions, to recognize they live inside the city.”
But there is an even bigger problem with Sonya Little living outside the city limits: state laws say the city CFO must be a trustee on the Employee Pension Board, and the city charter says all trustees must be city residents.
Because Little doesn’t meet the residency requirement, it is possible that some of the decisions made by the pension board over the past five and a half years could be invalid, affecting many city employees.