Taxpayer money goes to party video dubbed as 'team building'
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – It is a party video you have been paying for every year since 2010.
Miami-Dade County's Community Information and Outreach department has been producing it, it said, to show around the holiday season and as a "team-building" exercise.
Most of the videos appear to be a series of skits involving images of drinking, dancing and dramatics apparently designed to be funny.
"Shocking" is how one county employee described it, who did not want to be identified for fear of losing their job.
One scene, for example, has images of one current and one former employee holding what appears to be beer and waiving dollar bills. All of this as the music says, "Bottoms up" and the two men are heard saying, "Cheers baby!"
Other parts have employees dancing to popular songs like "Gangnam Style."
Another scene, using the song "Somebody That I Used to Know," has a man and woman lip-synching together and is shot in a way to apparently imply they are not wearing clothes, as in the original Gotye video.
Several parts of the 2012 and 2013 videos prominently feature department director Henry Sori.
"Let my people create," he declares in one section.
"Do you think that kind of video is appropriate?" investigative reporter Ross Palombo asked him.
"Yes, I do," Sori said.
"That's funny," Sori said in another part of the video after apparently watching his team create the skits. Not everyone, though, is laughing.
"I think it was shocking. I think it shouldn't have been done at all," one employee told Local 10. "I feel that a lot of the skits were inappropriate. Some of them were a little bit racy."
More than one employee said they had a problem with images of drinking and images of what they believe to be sexual dancing.
"I think it was a really bad choice," one person said. "Just way too sexual."
"What did you think about the sexuality of that?" Palombo asked Sori.
"I didn't see it as sexual," he said.
One section of a video has a man screaming, "Hump Day! Wooohoo!" while humping the air.
"He was just making fun of hump day," Sori said.
There are also allegations that his employees were making fun of taxpayers and the county motto of "Delivering Excellence." In one video there is an elaborate skit with employees screaming "Yay" about doing their jobs, and ends with a graphic reading, "Don't go delivering excellence to nobody who don't need no excellencin.'"
"Is that kind of a kick to the taxpayers?" Palombo asked one employee.
"Absolutely. They don't need excellence, so why should we deliver it?"
"Do you think the taxpayers would think it's funny?" Palombo asked Sori.
"I don't know," he replied.
Taxpayers pay Sori more than $160,000 a year to know exactly what his department is doing and know what these videos cost.
"I would definitely approve the final version," he said.
"It was done on county time?" Palombo asked.
"Yes," Sori said.
County records show the video took 13.5 hours of county time to produce in 2012 and more than 90 staff hours in 2013.
"Ninety hours?" Palombo asked.
"Over a two-and-a-half month period, I don't believe that was excessive," Sori said.
More than one employee, however, claims there were more excessive hours and more money spent on these videos than what was officially recorded.
"Are we talking about hundreds or thousands?" Palombo asked.
"I'm going to be conservative and say thousands, but it's pretty high up there," an employee said.
"No," Sori said. "I stand by the numbers we gave you."
Sori said the videos were created mostly in spare time to improve time spent at work.
"[To] improve morale and to have some fun," he said.
"Did it help the morale or did it harm it?" Palombo asked an employee.
"I think it harms it," they said.
Most of the people in the videos work or worked for the county's Community Information and Outreach Office, called CIAO. They usually create informational videos and televise commission meetings.
"Should taxpayers be paying for something like this?" Palombo asked.
"Absolutely not," an employee said. "It's definitely not a good use of county resources!"
And their resources have been shrinking. Like most parts of county government, there have been cuts in this department.
"There have been people laid off?" Palombo asked.
"There have been a few people laid off," Sori replied.
His office later said 11 people received formal layoff notices since 2011. Four people left, but seven found other positions in county government. And, that is what some say makes all of this harder to swallow, especially when taxpayers are picking up the tab.
"I don't believe this was inappropriate," Sori said.
"Do you believe the content -- drinking and sexual nature -- of some of this is appropriate?" Palombo asked.
"That's a matter of opinion, Ross."
"You're the director, what's your opinion?"
"I believe it was done in the right way," Sori said.
After Local 10 began its investigation, Sori received an email from Deputy Mayor Genaro "Chip" Iglesias questioning his use of resources and instructing him to refrain from videos like this in the future.
The man who appointed Sori to the job is Mayor Carlos Gimenez. A spokesperson for the mayor said Gimenez is aware of the videos but has not seen them. The mayor had no comment.
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