MIAMI -

"He hired me for my work ethics," Miami-Dade County Deputy Mayor Ed Marquez made very clear.

Marquez is the man hired to manage the county's money and its 25,577 employees.

"I'm the head of the finance department as well as the deputy mayor -- the (human resources) department, (information technology), audit and management, budget," Marquez told Local 10 investigative reporter Ross Palombo.

A four-month investigation in that budget found that $21,046,916 worth of pay last year went to "administrative leave." The county defines that as "time excused from work with pay." Some of it is mandatory for various reasons, like union contracts. Most of it, though -- a total of $11,261,073 -- was granted at the discretion of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who hired Marquez.

"You don't think it's wasteful in any way?" Palombo asked.

"Absolutely not," Gimenez said.

Not wasteful, he said, even for things like extra holidays off.  The county spent $2.5 million on extra time off last year for both New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve.  

"That's been county tradition for a long time," Marquez said.

Now, the new tradition appears to be Marquez himself taking the most administrative leave on the mayor's staff. During the past two years, records show he has taken 168 hours. Those two weeks were worth $21, 566.

It's time off that was not part of his written offer of employment nearly three years ago when the county agreed to pay him a $267,000 a year salary.

"Eighty hours per year of administrative leave (was) a substitute for two weeks additional vacation, which is what I wanted when I walked into this thing, this job," Marquez said.

He wanted it, Marquez said, because it is what employees with 20 years on the job get. As a re-hire, Marquez does have that combined experience, but it is not from "continuous" service as county rules require.

"It appears that the arrangement you have with the mayor to extend your vacation circumvents the county's own rules," Palombo said.

"It's not a circumvention," Marquez said. "It's in direct conformance with the county rules. (The mayor) can grant admin leave for anything."

Anything, though, is actually limited to county rules and regulations. When shown those rules, Marquez said his leave was covered under time off for excess work.

"But you're saying that this was to supplement your vacation," Palombo said.

"(The mayor is) granting it to me because I exceed my work schedule," Marquez replied. "Over a year, it greatly exceeds 80 hours."

"Isn't that why you're a salaried employee, sir?" Palombo asked.

"Even salaried employees you can't overwork," Marquez said.

A county librarian told Local 10 she believes it is unfair that this is happening while her department is facing severe cuts. She would only speak under the condition that her identity be kept anonymous for fear of losing her job.

"It seems unfair," she said. "It seems as if those in his inner circle, or those who are working with him on a day-to-day basis, get the perks."

"I think it's fair," Marquez said. 

In the end, his word may be final. After all, he is the very deputy mayor hired to manage the money, oversee Miami-Dade County's $2.3 billion payroll and 25,577 employees.

"Fairness is a matter of perception," Marquez said.