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Sweetwater Mayor Shuts Down City’s Finance Department

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SWEETWATER (CBSMiami) — The mayor of Sweetwater  announced Wednesday he will shut down the city’s finance department.

Mayor Jose Diaz announced that due to the “lack of transparency in the Finance Department, he is left with no other choice than to shut down the department,” according to a news release.

Mayor Diaz said the city can’t write checks because they have no idea how much money the city has. He also said they found 14 hidden bank accounts created under the former mayors regime and it’s unclear how much money is in those accounts.

Diaz held up a calculator during a press conference Wednesday, May 28th and said the city needs to go back to the basics of adding and subtracting.

They are hiring a third-party consultant to evaluate their finance situation and decide if the city needs to be declared a state of emergency.

Shutting down the Finance Department  means the finance director is fired but payroll, children and Senior citizen programs will continue.

Cbs4’s Cynthia Demos asked what exactly does that mean for the people living in Sweetwater.

Diaz said, “It means that there was a chaotic a government in place with 14 bank accounts and five banks.”

“It is always our intention to deliver transparency and professionalism and we will never hid anything from you,” said Mayor Diaz.

The city also has to deal with a glitch in their system which says they have $30 million to spend for the rest of the year when they probably have an estimated $3 million.

This is just the latest step to clean up the City of Sweetwater government.

Diaz’s opponents, however, say this is all for show.

“He is grand standing, putting on a show so he can win the next campaign,” said Commissioner Orlando Lopez.

Lopez, who happens to be running for mayor next year, says firing the finance director and halting payment is ludicrous.

“He is trying to propagate himself as a savior of the city,” said Lopez.

CBS4’s Demos spoke with with Miami Dade county Commissioner Pepe  Diaz. Sweetwater is in his district and he is also a resident.  He says he is incredibly concerned and has requested a meeting with the mayor.

Earlier this month, Mayor Diaz fired several department heads and employees close to former Mayor Manuel “Manny” Maroño. The dismissals were part of his “Clean House” project.

Sweetwater has had a tumultuous time since August, when the FBI arrested Maroño on charges of public corruption. The former mayor pleaded guilty of charges related to bribes in exchange for official favors as an elected official. He is serving a 40-month sentence at a federal prison.

In the months after Maroño’s arrest, several cases of alleged city corruption came to light in connection with the police department and Southland, the towing company.

In an ongoing investigation, federal authorities are looking into the towing of hundreds of vehicles that critics say is an abuse of power. El Nuevo Herald and CBS4 have been investigating these connections since August.

This is not the first wave of dismissals in Sweetwater since Díaz took over in August.

In October, the mayor dismissed several police personnel, including officers and high-ranking officials.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)

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