Scandal Tainting Bal Harbour’s Image
South Florida Crime
BAL HARBOUR (CBSMiami) – Bal Harbour, best-known for its designer stores, fancy cars, boats and expensive hotels, is drawing focus of a different sort now.
Workers Thursday began demolishing a building that housed the village’s anti-drug and money-laundering team.
The unit has been disbanded after a Department of Justice report accused Bal Harbour Police of squandering millions of federal drug and crime forefeiture dollars on things like lavish travel, big raises, and cop toys like a quarter-million dollar satellite equipped mobile command post presumably to deal with natural disasters and major incidents.
Bal Harbour, a tiny town, averages only about six reports of crime per month, mostly petty stuff.
Suspended and soon-to-be ex-police Chief Thomas Hunker has denied any wrongdoing. The interim village manager confirmed this Thursday however, that a delicate exit is being arranged.
“We’re just in discussions right now to see about reaching an amicable solution,” said interim manager Jay Smith.
Richard Sharpstein, the attorney representing Chief Hunker, said a deal has been reached that will see the police chief terminated without cause, allowing him to leave with some $100,000 in severance.
Investigators have also accused Chief Hunker of receiving inappropriate gifts, like a sweetheart price on an SUV for his wife from a dealer doing business with the city. He handed out real police badges to big wigs linked to the village, like Stanley Whitman, owner of the hugely pricey Bal Harbour Shops.
Residents of this chi-chi town are unaccustomed to attention, let alone hints of scandal.
“Egregious is the word,” said Michael Horowitz as he played basketball in a perfectly groomed village park.
Horowitz wife Judy chimed in, “We like to be a really exclusive, quiet, civilized, luxurious community. They have to clean up their act.”
The feds have demanded Bal Harbour return millions in money the government claimed was misspent.
So, if you’re in the market for one, you might be able to pick up a really expensive command post soon for really cheap in Bal Harbour.