Marathon Meeting In Progress To Determine Fate Of Miami Police Chief
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MIAMI (CBS4) – Friday’s Miami Commission meeting turned into a marathon event, clocking in at 15 hours…and counting.
At midnight, commissioners were still in deep discussions the fate of suspended Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito.
Earlier in the night, patience was running thin among the commissioners, who began to question why they were even in chambers at all.
“On a Friday night, we’re sitting here at 8 o’clock at night, figuring out something we couldve done,” said newly reinstated commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. ” This is just insane to me!”
Exposito arrived before the 9:00 a.m. start of his hearing Friday, but wouldn’t tip his hands to reporters with any comments.
“To do so would be insubordination on my part,” Exposito told CBS4′s David Sutta.
Exposito, a 37-year department veteran, was suspended Tuesday by City Manager Johnny Martinez who named 31-year police force veteran Maj. Manuel Orosa acting chief.
“The Chief lacks judgment, leadership, and the ability to follow orders,” Martinez said as he went on the offensive early in Friday’s hearing.
The City Manager cited two specific actions for the suspension. The first involved an issue that took place last month when Martinez refused to give Exposito permission to demote three high-ranking police staffers. Martinez asked for more information before signing off on the move. Exposito nevertheless stripped the officers of their authority by reassigning them to desk jobs.
Martinez also said Exposito failed to take steps as requested to reduce overtime.
“I’m asking you for a plan on how you plan to reduce overtime. Period. End,” Martinez said.
Exposito fired back, “That’s exactly what I did.”
Martinez shot back, “You did not. This is not a plan of action.”
Exposito told the commission Friday that the officers were not demoted. Exposito said the staffers in question continue to hold their same rank and same salary as before any of his actions.
The suspended chief also said when it came to overtime, he was only given suggestions, not a directive.
“I think the claims are completely unfounded,” said Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez.
Nearly 12 hours into the meeting, Commissioner Spence-Jones questioned if police overtime issues and job demotions are a fireable offense.
“I don’t even know what we’re doing!” said Spence Jones. “I don’t understand why we couldn’t just sit around and work this out.”
Friday’s meeting couldn’t get underway before a potential roadblock had to be overcome.
Commissioner Spence-Jones tried to move the chief’s hearing until October. She received some support from fellow commissioners.
“Do I believe this is the wrong time,” Miami Commissioner Frank Corrollo asked, “absolutely.”
Miami City Attorney Julie Bru shot down Spence-Jones’ argument quickly.
“The City charter says you must render judgment within 5 days,” Bru told the commission.
After that hurdle was finally cleared, the commission heard city manager Johnny Martinez make his case and Exposito finally was able to start defending himself.
Besides the claims of insubordination, a separate issue under Exposito has been a series of police-involved shootings in the African-American community.
“If these commissioners cannot get rid of this chief, this community will be in an uproar, especially in the African community,” said Reverend Jerome Starling.
Exposito has repeatedly clashed with Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, mainly over an investigation into alleged gambling operations supported by Regalado.
Throughout the early parts of the hearing, a camera focused on Exposito in the hearing showed Regalado sitting just behind him staring a hole through the suspended chief.
“I have reason to believe that I have been unfairly targeted by the office of the mayor for doing the right thing,” Exposito said. “I have been offered money to leave. I have been extorted.”
The chief wasn’t through calling out the mayor saying the entire incident has nothing to do with not following orders.
“We have a mayor who is hell bent on firing on me and the (city) manager has succumbed to that pressure,” Exposito said.
Things began to turn in the afternoon as the focus turned from Exposito to Martinez.
“Why did you want to look at the internal affairs files,” Exposito’s attorney asked Martinez.
Exposito’s attorney was questioning the city manager for suspending the chief and replacing the major over internal affairs. The move allowed the acting chief access to investigations into city and police officials. That information made it back to city hall.
“I didn’t look at the files, he told me,” Martinez said.
Martinez began to get frazzled as the hearing continued.
“If I had the opportunity to have an attorney here and have the city pay for it I wouldn’t,” Martinez asked.
It turns out, Martinez utilized the second recess of the day, which lasted at least two hours to find an attorney himself.
Martinez hired former PBA attorney Alberto Milian to sit next to him to help him answer questions during the rest of the hearing.
And if that wasn’t enough, during the 2 p.m. recess, actor Erik Estrada met the suspended police chief and gave him a hug.
The full commission is expected to make a final ruling on the chief’s job Friday afternoon.