Former Sweetwater Police Employees Still Unemployed After His Appeal
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SWEETWATER (CBSMiami) — As the FBI continues to dig deeper into Sweetwater and its Police Department, the City Commission spent part of Monday night considering the fate of one former police employee in particular.
Richard Brenner went before the commission to ask for his job back.
Ultimately, the commission decided it did not have the jurisdiction to grant Brenner’s appeal of his termination.
“It was expected. We knew this was going to happen,” Brenner told CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana after the decision was made.
Brenner was fired in October for “failing to meeting probationary standards” as a red light camera operator.
The official termination memo also said he worked in a capacity outside his intended scope of employment.
Brenner was also performing the duties of a detective, a job he said he was told to do by his superiors.
“At the end of the day I was doing what was expected of me,” Brenner explained. “I was instructed to participate in the task force. I was instructed to act as a detective. I was instructed to come in on a daily basis and follow-up on cases. At no point did I choose to make my own rules.”
Brenner was considered a civilian employee, but was also a member of the police auxiliary.
According to Interim Police Chief Jesse Menocal, auxiliary officers complete fewer training hours than full-time officers.
Documents showing the title “Detective” next to Brenner’s name were signed off on by now-Deputy Chief Roberto Ochoa.
“To single out one person who needs to feed two children who has done absolutely nothing wrong,” Brenner’s attorney Alex Martinez said. “He was asked to do his job and then to be fired for doing his job. If they would have asked Det. Brenner or Mr. Brenner or Red Light Supervisor Brenner, or whatever title you want to give him to stand on his head for 8 hours, he would have done it.”
Whether Brenner was still on probation was also a point of contention.
According to the police chief, Brenner was hired full-time for the red light camera operator position in April.
City Attorney Ralf Ventura suggested Brenner was acting as a detective during much of his probationary period, instead of the position he was hired for.
Menocal said Brenner did not have the necessary training to perform his duties as a red light camera operator.
“I inherited these issues. but somebody’s gotta bring them to light,” Menocal said, an apparent dig at the previous administration led by former Police Chief Roberto Fulgueira.
Fulgueira retired almost two months ago.
The issues Menocal is referring to include an FBI investigation into the police department and several of its officers.
Brenner’s attorney said his client has nothing to do with the ongoing probe.
“It just seems that he’s part of the cleaning house that they want to do here and get ride of whatever good people are left,” Martinez said.
Brenner said he has not been able to obtain unemployment. He said the city lost the paperwork.
Brenner also wondered whether the citations he issued as a Detective are even valid.