FKAA defends hiring Acevedo

‘Bookie’ Hernandez, Highsmith among his references

dgoodhue@keysreporter.comAugust 29, 2014 

 

The ninth time was a charm for Randy Acevedo, the disgraced former School District superintendent convicted in 2009 in connection with the theft of more than $413,000 in taxpayer funds.

The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority hired him last week as a computer programmer. Over the past several years, Acevedo, 48, applied for a job with the FKAA eight times. This year, he tried again, successfully. 

Despite a felony conviction for covering up his then-wife’s theft of almost a half-million dollars from the district, it appears Acevedo has not lost support from many heavy hitters in the Key West power structure. 

Among his references for the FKAA job are longtime Monroe schools superintendent A.J. “Bookie” Hernandez, and Bobby Highsmith, a Key West attorney elected to the School Board on Tuesday. 

Kirk Zuelch, FKAA executive director, defended the public utility’s decision to hire Acevedo.

“He successfully completed his judicial sentence two years ago, which was imposed by Judge [Mark] Jones five years ago,” Zuelch said in an e-mail. “He fulfilled all the requirements placed on him. The court did not find him liable for the theft you refer to” in a written question.

Acevedo’s new job pays an annual salary of $45,379, said Elvira Sawyer, FKAA executive office coordinator. He started work Aug. 20. 

The job includes full health benefits, and if Acevedo lasts eight years at FKAA, he will be vested under the Florida Retirement System Pension Plan. 

Acevedo has a background in information technology. Kerry Shelby, FKAA deputy executive director, said “his skill-set fit” the entry-level computer technician position. “We didn’t see we could turn him away.”

Shelby said there were other candidates but “Randy was the best-suited for the job.” 

It was not clear at press time how many other candidates applied. 

Acevedo was sentenced to three years of probation in 2009 on three felony counts of obstruction of justice by a public official, based on his efforts to cover up his then-wife’s theft.

His wife, Monique Acevedo, was the School District’s head of Adult Education from 2005 to 2009. She was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2010 for stealing $413,000 from the school district, mostly by using her work credit card for personal purchases. She also stole tuition fees paid for adult education classes. 

The Acevedos divorced in April.

Then-Gov. Charlie Crist removed Acevedo from office. A judge also ordered Acevedo to pay a $15,000 fine and perform community service. 

Monique Acevedo’s defense attorneys claimed her actions were caused, in part, to an  untreated bipolar disorder and addiction to prescription painkillers. 

The scandal rocked the School District and led to the district ending its policy of electing its superintendents.  Now the Monroe County School Board hires its superintendent. 

Asked if placing a felon on the public payroll who was convicted in connection with more than $400,000 in stolen taxpayer money was a sound choice, Shelby replied that he was “not intimately involved in the decision making.” 

 

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