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OPA-LOCKA (CBSMiami) — The former city manager of Opa-locka who is facing federal corruption charges turned himself into police Monday morning.
Former Opa-locka City Manager David Chiverton appeared before a Judge in federal court Monday afternoon.
His attorney David Garvin entered a plea of not guilty for Chiverton and asked for a trial by jury. He also waived Chiverton’s right to be indicted by a Grand Jury and to “proceed by information” in this case.
Garvin told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that Chiverton would be cooperating with prosecutors and accepted some responsibility in this case. He said Chiverton was not a “risk of flight” and Federal Judge John O’Sullivan said Chiverton could be released on a $50,000 surety bond.
The judge also ordered that Chiverton surrender his passport and attend alcohol treatment and counseling sessions if necessary and have all firearms removed from his home.
“I think David Chiverton has done a lot of good things for the city of Opa-locka and always wanted to do the right thing. I think when the facts are known you’ll see that he was under tremendous pressure from the establishment there and the system and he tried to get out of the way and he just couldn’t.
“The net result is, is if you want to keep your job you follow orders and I think David will take responsibility for his conduct,” said Garvin. “I envision putting forth all of the facts in this case as relates to what happened in Opa-locka. There were a lot of discretionary matters here involving people who were higher up,” said Garvin.
He said Chiverton needed to keep his job. “It is well documented that David had health issues.” He said Chiverton was looking forward to having all of the issues resolved. He also said the amount of money that was allegedly solicited was not a huge sum.
On Friday, the U.S. Attorneys Office announced the charges against Chiverton – who resigned last month – and former Opa-locka Assistant Public Works Director Gregory Harris. They were charged for their participation in a two-year long bribery and extortion scheme.
According to authorities, Chiverton and Harris used their official positions within the city to solicit, demand and obtain thousands of dollars in bribes from businesses and individuals in exchange for some sort of official action.
In exchange for the illegal payments, investigators said a public official would direct Chiverton, Harris and other City of Opa-locka employees to do various tasks like issuing occupational licenses; waiving, removing, and setting code enforcement matters and liens; initiating, restoring and continuing water service; and assisting with zoning issues.
Harris also allegedly was directed by Chiverton and another public official to take actions like restoring water service to businesses that had paid them illegal bribes.
Harris appeared in court Friday morning.
If convicted, Chiverton and Harris each face a maximum sentence of five years’ behind bars, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release.
Meantime, the FBI has also been investigating Opa-locka’s mayor over allegations of corruption. Several other top officials are under investigation as well.
CBS4 News was the first to air the only television interview with FBI’s inside man in Opa-locka, Frank Zambrana, who says he wore a wire and recorded a number of city officials shaking him down for bribes.
Zambrana claims city commissioner Luis Santiago began shaking him down for payments. He then says Santiago introduced him to Chiverton and Harris. Years of payments later, Zambrana is finally seeing action.
For Zambrana, it may be too little too late. In the time he helped the FBI, he’s lost two sons – one to cancer and one to suicide – and he’s lost his business. He said this past spring, he regretted participating in the long drawn out FBI investigation.
As for the city, it’s under a state of financial emergency – declared by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. This means the state is overseeing everything for the city of Opa-locka.
City officials say Opa-locka is facing a $1.4 million shortfall plus millions more in previous debts.