Miami-Dade Ethics Commission Boss Resigns
MIAMI (CBS4) – Robert Meyers, the embattled executive director of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics who was accused of engaging in a questionable “personal relationship” with an aide, resigned Tuesday.
“I just had enough,” Meyers told CBS4 News after announcing his decision at the ethics commission monthly meeting. “It’s really time for me to pursue other opportunities outside of county government.”
Meyers, who earns $230,000 a year, said he would stay on until a replacement could be found. Meyers has led the ethics commission since its inception nearly thirteen years ago. He said when he first took the position he never expected to stay in the job as long as he has.
Meyers denied that his decision to step down had anything to do with the ongoing scandal swirling through his office.
Last year, an anonymous complaint about Meyers was sent to Mayor Carlos Alvarez accusing Meyers of engaging in a “personal relationship” with an assistant. The complaint included hand-written notes from Meyers to the assistant discussing lunch plans.
In one note, Meyers writes that he got an offer from American Express for complimentary lunch for two at a Coral Way restaurant. “I got this invitation, and I thought of you,” Meyers wrote to the assistant.
In another missive to the woman, Meyers writes, “I’d like to have another…lunch with you before the end of the month.” The note goes on to say, “I’d prefer to go on a Friday, that way if I have wine or a cocktail, it’s no big deal.”
In still another note, Meyers confirms a lunch date, writing that “It’s supposed to be a beautiful restaurant, overlooking Biscayne Bay, so wear something nice.”
At the time the complaint was made public, Meyers, who is married, denied anything inappropriate was happening between himself and the assistant.
“I go out to lunch with people all the time and I don’t see where that’s a big deal,” he said last year. “Having a glass of wine or two, it’s not a matter of anybody’s concern but mine.”
When the complaint was first made, Mayor Alvarez wrote a memo to Ethics Commission Chairman Kerry Rosenthal informing him of the allegations and asking that he “handle accordingly and notify me of the outcome.”
But the investigation, being conducted by Ethics Commission Advocate Michael Murawski, who is also called a prosecutor, focused on who obtained the lunch notes, apparently from the office of Meyers’ assistant.
In a memo to most of the staff, Murawski wrote that he was going to conduct “an investigation” to “determine the person(s) responsible for rummaging through a co-worker’s office.”
The ensuing investigation created rancor in the office, as employees complained that they were all being treated like suspects.
Breno Penichet, an investigator for the commission who previously had a 31-year career as a police officer, wrote a blistering note to Murawski, arguing that requiring so many employees to submit to questioning “impugns the integrity of all of us.”
“Most of us have no idea what’s going on with this, and we have to submit to this type of investigation, this kind of scrutiny?” Penichet told CBS4 News. “We are being interrogated.”
Penichet said staff members were being required to give their statements under oath, with a court reporter present. He said he did not mind being questioned, but felt the questioning should be conducted by an “outside, impartial” agency.
“They are focusing on all the employees instead of all these notes between the director” and his assistant, Penichet said.
Another Ethics Commission employee, Kennedy Rosario, called the process an “inquisition.” Rosario, who is also a former cop, said he too was willing to be questioned, but agreed that an outside agency should conduct the investigation.
If documents were stolen from the commission offices, Rosario said, “that would a criminal offense.” The ethics commission, he said, was not equipped to investigate criminal matters.
“It should have been thought out a lot better, how to conduct this investigation,” Rosario said.
Murawski, in an off-camera interview with CBS4 News, defended the investigation.
“The chairman directed me to do this, and I am,” Murawski said.