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Miami Police Directed Away From Investigating Elected Officials. Here’s How it Happened – NBC 6 South Florida



The stability of Miami’s city government has seriously been questioned after the public battle between Police Chief Art Acevedo and three city commissioners. Acevedo’s job appears to be in jeopardy, and a multi-million dollar lawsuit has already been filed.

NBC 6 wanted to know more about one issue raised in the scandal: why city commissioners directed police away from investigating elected officials and their staff?

In an eight-page memo to the city manager, Acevedo wrote he contacted the Department of Justice about three sitting commissioners – Manolo Reyes, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and Joe Carollo – for “unlawful interference and obstruction” of internal affairs investigations, “intimidation,” and violating the city charter among other accusations.

The city commissioners strongly deny the allegations, calling them “ridiculous” and “lies.”

It came to a head last week when Carollo challenged Acevedo to come into the public meeting and arrest him then and there.

Carollo called “for he, himself to come down and have the guts to do it in a public meeting. If not, to shut his big mouth and to please quit threatening us.”

Members of the Miami Police Department watching closely as Chief Art Acevedo navigates his way forward. Meanwhile, there are reports that a plan is in the works to try and fire the chief. NBC 6’s Steve Litz reports

That’s when city manager Art Noriega assured Carollo the local police would not arrest him because Miami police do not investigate elected officials or their staff for possible felonies. They instead send cases to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“That has to be deferred to either the FDLE or the FBI. He (Acevedo) was aware of that memo and there will be no arrest made by anyone within the Miami police department of any sitting elected official,” Noriega told the commission.

Noriega was referring to the city resolution passed four to one in February 2020 directing the city to come to agreements with the FDLE and the FBI to hand them all criminal cases higher than misdemeanors of traffic violations to avoid “any perceived conflicts.”

Carollo brought up the measure and had concerns about police being too hard on some elected officials and going too easy on others.

“Frankly, I think they should be relieved of that because that’s a no-win for any police department in the country to get involved with elected officials or people that work for them,” Carollo said at the time.

The item was described as an “emergency” and came days after Miami police arrested a staff member for Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, Rene Pedrosa, for allegedly groping a teenage boy and sending sexually explicit messages. Federal charges were later filed against Pedrosa for child pornography. Pedrosa pleaded not guilty. The trial is set for early 2022. A request for comment to his attorneys has not been returned.

According to an executive order from the Governor, the Miami-Dade State Attorney requested the Broward County State Attorney’s Office take up the Pedrosa case to avoid a conflict of interest. Prosecutors in Broward County handed the case over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office once federal charges were filed.

The commission resolution meanwhile passed four to one with then-commissioner Keon Hardemon voting against it.

“Can we do this?” Hardemon asked, concerned about it obstructing a law enforcement investigation.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, which houses a public corruption unit, is not mentioned in the resolution.

Experts Say it Impacts Perception More Than Policing

Law enforcement experts tell NBC 6 the resolution put in writing what was already in practice for many corruption cases. Miami police often refer those investigations to other agencies to avoid a conflict of interest or appearance of one.

Experts say this resolution would not supersede state law requiring officers to arrest a suspect if a crime is committed in front of them.

This resolution does, however, create the perception of a gray area for other common felonies such as grand theft, drug possession, driving under the influence, or assault.

Similar concerns were brought up at the time by then-Miami police chief Jorge Colina. He persuaded the commission to limit the resolution to only include staff members for the past two years because of the large amount of staff.

In an interview, Colina tells NBC 6 he agreed with the intent of the resolution to avoid conflict of interests but a one size fits all policy comes with concerns.

“The spirit of the ordinance is so no one is being treated unfairly at the hands of the police on one side and no one’s receiving special favors,” Colina said.

“Honestly, perception is more important than reality,” he said.

However, Colina echoed his concerns in 2020, worrying about not giving investigators the ability to weigh each case separately based on specific circumstances. He also worried about the perception this is giving elected officials and their staff a get-out-of-jail-free card.

“That is a concern and that was a concern for me that some people might feel that way. Honestly it’s ok to feel that way,” said Colina. “That’s one of the great things about living in this country is we’re a democracy and the elected body gets to discuss and pass an ordinance like this, hopefully in what’s in the best interest of the community. Then the community can come out and say, well we don’t like that.”

Longtime criminologist and chair of the sociology department at the University of Miami Alex Piquero tells NBC 6 the resolution is not a common move for city governments to make.

Piquero says it’s a good idea to have a third party look at public corruption allegations because the perception of conflicts of interests are an extremely important part of a police department’s trust within the community.

The other aspect the resolution doesn’t take into account: resources.

“The FDLE is probably not going to care so much if you put your trash in someone else’s lawn or something of that nature,” said Piquero. “You don’t want to send all of these investigations to the FDLE and the FBI unless they are warranted. I think everybody wins a bit here and everybody loses a bit here.”

Spokespeople for the FDLE and the FBI have not yet returned a request for comment.

Implications for Commission and the Chief

Carollo, in interviews after last week’s meetings, said Acevedo came to him twice asking for the commission to reverse the resolution so local police could investigate local leaders. Carollo said reversing it now would give the chief inappropriate leverage over the commission in their very public fight.

“I have no trust in this individual to be our police chief,” said Carollo.

In response to the allegations, the commission is creating an investigative panel to look into themselves and the chief, overseen by the five city commissioners.

Requests for comment to the Miami Police Department and Acevedo have not been returned.

Commissioners Reyes, Diaz de la Portilla, and Carollo opposed the chief’s moves of firing two high ranking police leaders, demoting four majors, bringing in an outside deputy chief from Houston, and suspending a popular commission sergeant at arms. The dispute became very public after the chief joked the department was run by the “Cuban Mafia” while talking about diversity. Many Cuban-American officers and the three Cuban-American city commissioners did not find the comment funny.

The battle has since escaped into multiple hours long public meetings disparaging and criticizing the chief. The three commissions have generally echoed the complaints from the local police union.

Mayor Suarez originally touted the hire of “America’s police chief” but has been quiet recently. His office did not return a request for comment. Neither did spokespeople for the city manager, who earlier announced he would no longer be speaking publicly about the chief and the commission battle.

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Allegations of irregularities, corruption: DSCC terminates revenue officer, 33 workers




Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) today (June 28, 2022) terminated the deputy revenue officer and 33 workers of two departments for their alleged involvement with irregularities and corruption.

The DSCC in an order signed by its secretary Akramuzzaman terminated Md Selim Khan, deputy revenue officer, who also worked as personal assistant of former mayor Sayeed Khokon, said a press release.

Selim, who was working as the deputy revenue officer of zone-5, was attached to the office of the secretary of DSCC for his alleged corruption and different kinds of irregularities in December last year.

In two other separate orders DSCC also terminated 17 skilled workers of the revenue department and 16 unskilled workers of the department of waste management today.

DSCC in the orders said the decision of the termination was taken in public interest.

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Miami PD Officers Closer to Whistleblower Protection After Corruption Allegations Against Chief – NBC 6 South Florida




Two officers with the Miami Police Department are one step closer to whistleblower protection after coming forward with allegations of activities of corruption against Chief Manuel Morales.

During a hearing Tuesday, the city had no objection to the request to start the process for whistle blowers protection for Commander Brandon Lanier and Detective Wanda Jean-Baptiste 

The hearing is based on two letters submitted by them saying Morales was trying to control the outcome of internal affairs investigations.

It’s the first step to get the federal protection under the Whistleblowers Act. 

“I think it’s a matter of making sure that other members of the police department that work and serve and protect the citizens of Miami don’t have to undergo the same actions and harm that they are going under for just doing their job,” said Griska Mena, and attorney for the South Florida Police Benevolent Association.

The next hearing is scheduled for January 24th. NBC 6 reached out to Morales and Miami’s city manager, Arthur Noriega, but have not heard back.

Previously in an exclusive interview with NBC 6, Morales denied those allegations against him and Noriega previously voiced support for the chief.

NBC 6’s Willard Shepard speaks to the Miami Police Chief about allegations made by fellow officers

The two internal affairs employees want outside agencies to investigate to see if a crime has been committed after alleging that they aren’t being allowed to independently do their work.

Morales said a priority for him when he took over was healing from turmoil during predecessor Art Acevedo’s tenure at the department.

“It has been an uphill battle to bring everybody on board. We have made some incredible progress not only combatting firearm violence but also returning the morale,” Morales said earlier in June.

Acevedo was fired in October 2021 after just six months on the job and numerous clashes with city officials.

Lanier said “…Morales has used his position to open investigations to target employees and influence the outcome of investigations.” Jean-Baptiste wrote that “staff is not expected to follow rules or standard operating procedures. The corruption is growing from within.”

Morales said the allegations have zero merit.

“When the truth comes out as a result of any investigation that might be deemed to be conducted into these allegations, and the facts are all out there, I will be cleared and the agency more importantly,” Morales said.

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Chief Investigator Questioned in Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness Corruption Trial – NBC10 Philadelphia




The chief investigator in the criminal corruption case against Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness tried repeatedly under cross-examination Monday to deflect responsibility for false statements he made in a search warrant affidavit and which were later reiterated in an indictment.

The testimony by Frank Robinson involved allegations that McGuiness orchestrated a no-bid communications services contract for My Campaign Group, a firm she had used as a campaign consultant when running for lieutenant governor in 2016, then deliberately kept the contract payments under $5,000 to avoid having to get them approved by the Division of Accounting.

Robinson told a judge in a sworn affidavit in the fall of 2021 that payments to My Campaign Group were split in August 2020, and again in September 2020, to keep them under $5,000, the threshold at which payments by state agencies require approval from the Division of Accounting.

In fact, before swearing to the truth of those statements, Robinson and lawyers in the attorney general’s office had seen a Division of Accounting spreadsheet about two months earlier indicating that the contractor received only one payment each month, both above $5,000 and both approved by the Division of Accounting. Robinson also stated in the affidavit that the contract with My Campaign Group was the only no-bid contract of at least $45,000 entered into by McGuiness’ office in which all payments were made below the $5,000 reporting threshold.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Steve Wood, Robinson admitted, as he had done at an earlier evidence suppression hearing, that those prior statements were false.

“I have to admit that our understanding at the time was not accurate,” Robinson said, adding that it “would have been good” to call the director of the Division of Accounting and seek clarification before making the assertions contained in the search warrant affidavit.

Wood suggested that the reason Robinson didn’t make that call was because he already had a theory that McGuiness was splitting payments in order to avoid scrutiny of the contract payments, and that the spreadsheet was ignored because it didn’t fit that theory.

While admitting that the statements were false, Robinson said they were not “intentionally false.” He also tried to deflect responsibility by noting repeatedly that he was part of an “investigative team.”

That team consisted of Robinson — who has more than two decades of experience as a police officer and as chief special investigator for Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust — and attorneys associated with the division.

“I can’t speak to the thought process,” Robinson said when asked why statements were made in the search warrant affidavit that were contrary to what was contained in the accounting spreadsheet.

Under earlier questioning by prosecutor Mark Denney, Robinson denied that he intentionally misled the court in obtaining a search warrant. He said he had misread the spreadsheet, confusing “line splits” with payments, and that other members of the investigate team were operating under that same misunderstanding.

Robinson also testified that, after several employees in her office began talking to the attorney general’s office about concerns they had with her conduct, McGuiness in December 2020 asked state information technology officials whether anyone other than her had requested access to email accounts of anyone in the auditor’s office since January 2019.

Officials determined that, as an agency head, McGuiness would already be aware of email monitoring requests that were “not otherwise confidential,” and she would not be entitled to any information about confidential requests.

McGuiness, a Democrat elected in 2018, is responsible as state auditor for rooting out government fraud, waste and abuse. She is being tried on felony counts of theft and witness intimidation, and misdemeanor charges of official misconduct, conflict of interest and noncompliance with procurement laws. McGuiness is the first statewide elected official in Delaware to face criminal prosecution while in office.

Prosecutors allege, among other things, that the way McGuiness’ office handled payments for My Campaign Group was a deliberate attempt to avoid regulatory scrutiny and amounts to illegal financial “structuring” of a contract.

Prosecutors also allege that McGuiness hired her daughter and her daughter’s best friend as temporary employees in 2020, even though other temporary employees had left because of the lack of available work amid the coronavirus pandemic. Authorities allege that in hiring her daughter and exercising control over taxpayer money with which she was paid, McGuiness engaged in theft of state money and conflict of interest.

Authorities also allege that when employees in her office became aware of McGuiness’ misconduct, she responded by trying to intimidate the whistleblowers, including monitoring their email accounts.

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