MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A political scandal is unfolding in North Bay Village amidst a criminal investigation and it involves allegations of extortion and blackmail against a city commissioner. And, according to the city’s former attorney, who was surprisingly fired at the end of Tuesday’s commission meeting, the Village’s mayor is a person of interest in the case.
It began at the end of Tuesday’s meeting when Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps made a motion to fire the Village attorney, Robert Switkes. She cited a series of ongoing issues.
“I simply have lost complete confidence in our city attorney,” Leon-Kreps said.
Commissioners voted 3 to 1 to fire him.
Then, Switkes came out swinging saying the mayor of North Bay Village has been targeted as a person of interest in a criminal case involving threats leveled against another commissioner.
“You are the subject of interest and have been identified as such and your motion is clearly retaliatory for my having reported the criminal behavior to the FDLE and the FBI,” Switkes told the commission.
Switkes said that information should have prevented Leon-Kreps from voting on his termination due to a conflict of interest. Switkes said another commissioner, Jose Alvarez, also has a potential major conflict by voting on the dismissal.
“Commissioner Alvarez, you have a potential conflict of interest as well in that your wife has been identified as a person of interest in that criminal investigation,” Switkes said.
Switkes is talking about threats sent to Commissioner Dr. Douglas Hornsby. The threats began earlier this year. At a meeting in May, Hornsby discussed the threats and admitted a past transgression.
“I got a drug conviction for cocaine back in Tennessee back in 1989,” he admitted. “I’ve never hid this from anyone. I knew it would come out.”
Hornsby said he believed the threats were politically motivated and meant to force him to vote a certain way.
“The implied threat is to send it to everybody I know, everybody’s who’s heard of me or saw me because they don’t like the way I vote,” he said.
At that May meeting, Switkes told the commission that he reported the matter to law enforcement, including the FBI.
“I believe it’s a violation of both federal and state law to threaten or coerce a sitting public official,” Switkes said. “Because of that I have notified the FBI.”
Late Wednesday, the North Bay Village Police Department sent out a news release saying there is an ongoing public corruption investigation into the threats against Commissioner Hornsby and that the
FDLE is handling the case. The police department said they could not provide additional information due to the ongoing case.
Mayor Leon-Kreps sent a statement late Wednesday night to CBS4’s Carey Codd.
It read, in part, “With regard to the dismissal of our former city attorney, I cannot speak for anyone but myself. But I truly believe that my action was not in any way retaliatory. The relationship had simply become unworkable and our Village deserves better.”
The mayor also told CBS4 News that she is not aware of any criminal investigation and she denies sending any threats to Commissioner Hornsby.
In her statement, Leon-Kreps also spoke about the statement released by the police chief.
She wrote, “I was surprised that our Police Chief issued a press release late this afternoon in response to any request or requests for information, no matter the number of alleged requests for information. I am also concerned that our Chief’s press release also included statements and conclusions that there had been a factual and legal determination of the criminal conduct when there has been no such determination and seemed parrot what was unprofessionally voiced at our meeting last night. Since this was issued after hours and so late in the day, I will have to call our Manager and find out whether the Chief sought legal input from either or current attorney or former City attorney before simply releasing the statement.”
CBS4 News also left a message for Commissioner Jose Alvarez and texted and emailed him for a comment but we did not hear back from him.