Anatomy of a City in Turmoil

City of South Miami

City of South Miami

The firing of South Miami’s Chief of Police Orlando Martinez de Castro on Wednesday, August 14, did not come as a surprise to those who have been paying attention to a City besieged in lawsuits and turmoil. The resolution sponsored by Mayor Stoddard at a special meeting declaring the City’s five-year contract with Chief Martinez null and void boggles the mind of even a sophomore law student.

Clearly, any municipal attorney with the slightest knowledge of contract law would have advised against the resolution. The resolution, in essence, states that because Chief Martinez was asked over a year ago by then City Manager Mirabile to serve as, sit in as, take over as, and act on his behalf as city manager during his absence – and because Martinez did exactly what his boss asked him to do – the City Commission now claims that his actions violated his contract with the City. The declared violation thereby made Martinez “an employee at will.”

In the past, the courts have said something to this effect: You cannot have two positions with a City, and if you do, the original, or first one, (in this case, the chief of police position) will be terminated. Interestingly enough, the City, the mayor and the chief are heavily involved in a lawsuit and one of the City’s defense strategies is that the chief violated the law by temporarily taking the position as manager, even if he was asked by the City to do so on a temporary basis.

So far, the judge has not ruled on this part of the lawsuit. In either case, or perhaps in any case, the City acted in very bad faith, by firing him for stepping up and filling in when his boss asked him to do so.

This type of behavior is disgraceful and is full of BAD faith and more. The three buffoons that voted for the resolution – Mayor Stoddard and Commissioners Bobble Head Welsh and Wally – should be taken to the back forty and be given some classes on acceptable behavior in a modern society.

Okay, back to my ranting about the City in turmoil.

It also looks like the City charter may have been violated because newly appointed City Manager Steven Alexander, by virtue of the Stoddard, Welsh and Harris resolution, was forced to fire the chief of police. Interestingly enough, just a month or so ago, Alexander had been quoted as saying “the chief was doing his job.” On the day the chief was fired, Vice Mayor Josh Liebman stated, “The city manager had promised him that he had no grounds, nor would he fire the chief.”

Here’s just a small glimpse into the psyche of these “leaders:”

Over the past three and half years there have been four city managers. The revolving door of city managers, which, include the previously fired Mirabile, has cost South Miami taxpayers dearly. Mirabile, who was hailed by Mayor Stoddard as the solution to all of the City’s woes, was abruptly terminated last fall by the Stoddard-led majority for allegedly refusing to fire the chief of police. Mirabile’s contract required that the City pay him a “consulting fee” for six months if terminated without cause. The City did pay him on a monthly basis without any “consulting services.”

Mirabile contended at the time that the chief was doing his job, and to fire him without cause would cost South Miami taxpayers even more than the settlement with fired City Manager Ajibola Balogun. Last year, the City paid Balogun $385,000 plus $16,000 for his attorney’s fees. In addition, the City had to hire the services of several attorneys, which cost South Miami taxpayers a reported $145,000.

Stoddard, who voted for and worked behind the scenes to give both Mirabile and Martinez unprecedented five-year contracts, is now facing several lawsuits, including two for slander. Currently, there are no less than 10 lawsuits that have been filed against the City.

The souring of the Stoddard, Mirabile, and Martinez relationship might have been caused by several circumstances, apparently not related to the performances of either Mirabile or Martinez. The first event occurred during what appeared to be a call to the South Miami Police Department by Stoddard in August 2011. Stoddard called the cops to report a break-in at his home by a “man wearing a green mask” while he, his adopted daughter and an exchange student were in the house.

According to the police report, the exchange student screamed when she saw the man in a mask. She also informed a South Miami police detective that at first she thought it might have been Stoddard. The police force arrived within two minutes only to find Stoddard in his bedroom putting on his clothes.

The police reported no signs of a forced entry and were baffled to learn that, according to Stoddard, “$6,000 worth of computer equipment was stolen by the ‘masked man.’” A member of the police department, wishing to remain anonymous, stated, “We were patrolling the neighborhood when the call came in and we were there within two minutes. Surely, we would have noticed a man wearing a mask carrying computer equipment.”

Stoddard later claimed that he ran out of his room naked in order to save the girls from the “masked intruder.” A letter penned by an exsupporter of Stoddard, former Chief of Police Kenneth Harms, was the subject of TV news coverage and has been submitted as a public record at the South Miami Clerk’s Office.

Another incident for which the chief was blamed occurred when South Miami Police responded to a call from a citizen during last year’s election campaign. A city resident called to complain about harassment from a Stoddard friend and campaign worker who had knocked on his door. The Stoddard supporter spoke in a loud and aggressive manner and refused to leave when asked. The police responded to the call by stopping the individual and advising him that he needed to cease and desist from further harassment. The campaign worker immediately called his friend Stoddard while the police were present. According to the tape recording, which is also public record, Stoddard immediately placed a call to the dispatcher to complain about the police, tying up the dispatcher with intimidating questions, comments and veiled threats. And somehow the chief looks like the bad guy with this one, too.

But wait, there’s more:

In another instance, Commissioner Walter Harris’s wife, also a Stoddard friend, was involved in leaving the scene of an accident at a parking lot in the Dadeland North Parking Garage. The accident was recorded by a video camera and the car’s license tag was traced by Miami-Dade Police to Commissioner Harris. Since the commissioner lives in South Miami, it required South Miami Police involvement. This led to two Metro-Dade police cars and two South Miami police cars showing up. A bit of overkill, I agree, but that’s the standard protocol. And yes, Chief Martinez got the brunt and was widely blamed for the entire thing.

Last year, the mayor was complaining that the police actually pulled out their guns when they were serving a bench warrant at 5 a.m. The mayor continued, “is that any way to treat a visitor to South Miami, who happened to be been in the house, when some five to seven cops were serving the warrant on some folks that were accused of dealing drugs?” Of course, the chief got grief over that one, too.

Then there was the case of the undocumented handy man who did work for Commissioner Bobble Head and other South Miami residents and was wanted by the U.S. Marshall on criminal charges. We’re told that when the handyman finished with his work for the day, he would frequently sleep on the backyard patios of his boss man or woman. So, let’s get this clear: He was wanted by the U.S. Marshall’s office and there was a BOLO (be on the lookout) flyer, and all the while it was well known that this guy was doing work on the homes of certain people in a specific neighborhood. Of course, the authorities picked up the guy and he was ultimately deported back to his homeland. And somehow and someway the chief’s naysayers twist this thing around so that he looks like the bad guy.

I could go on and on. But at the end of the day, this City is in turmoil and on life support and needs a lot of help. Anybody have any suggestions

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