After NBC 6 Investigators reported details of the salary and the hiring process for incoming police chief Art Acevedo, the city of Miami Commission will debate whether to play a larger role in the hiring or firing of the next police or fire chief.
City Commissioner Manolo Reyes wants more input making crucial public safety hires after the speedy surprise pick of the incoming chief.
NBC 6 learned Acevedo did not officially apply for the position and was chosen over more than 50 applicants and eight finalists, five of whom were internal candidates, who went through a public selection process.
City Manager Art Noriega said he made the hire after an introduction from Mayor Francis Suarez.
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“They came out of nowhere and picked a police chief that wasn’t vetted,” Reyes said.
Noriega defended the hire, saying Acevedo is one of America’s most well-known police chiefs. For the past 13 years, he’s been a major chief in Texas: first in Austin, then in Houston. He’s also the president of the Major City Chiefs Association.
“I simply couldn’t pass on the opportunity to hire a professional of Chief Acevedo’s capability,” Noriega told NBC 6 earlier.
The NBC 6 Investigators get results
Reyes’ proposal would write in the city charter a “procedure for the selection, appointment, and the approval by a majority of the city commission of any future appointments” for police or fire chiefs. In effect, making a confirmation process where three out of five votes on the commission would be needed.
Currently, the charter makes it up to the city manager.
Noriega told NBC 6 he doesn’t have any response to the proposal and that it will be addressed at a public meeting set on April 22.
“At that time, if asked, I will give my perspective,” Noriega wrote in an email.
Mayor Suarez has not yet responded to a request for comment about the proposal but he has previously defended the hire, saying, “it was a wonderful recruiting job by our manager to get essentially what is America’s police chief here to Miami.”
Chief Acevedo, by phone, told NBC 6 he didn’t want to weigh in on the proposal or the hiring process.
“I just want to focus on my new job,” Chief Acevedo said.
The position was posted online by city staff for between $195,000 to $230,000 per year in salary. That was around the pay for former chief Jorge Colina.
Chief Acevedo, according to an offer letter obtained by NBC 6, will be starting at $315,000. Each year he has a positive review, he’ll receive a 5% increase.
Reyes said this will put him close to $400,000 if Acevedo stays for five years.
“We must have some say in the contract because this contract is out of this world,” Reyes said.
Commission Chair Ken Russell opposes Reyes’s proposal, saying he likes the “chain of accountability” as it currently is. The city manager is in charge of hiring the police chief and the Mayor and Commission have oversight on the city manager.
Commissioner Jeffrey Waston told NBC 6 he hasn’t yet made up his mind on the issue but will “listen to the arguments” on April 22.
“Mr. Reyes is dead wrong. His proposal injects politics into the selection of a police chief and is counterproductive,” Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla said. “This can lead to an unprofessional environment where our residents could lose faith in the elected officials and chief of police.”
Commissioner Joe Carollo didn’t respond to a request to Reyes’ specific proposal but brought up a similar issue at a December 2020 city commission, supporting a resolution for the city attorney to work on a charter amendment to establish a “transparent process on the choosing of a Police Chief, Fire Chief, and budget director for the commission to choose and vote upon.”
If approved on April 22, the city attorney will return at a later date with ballot language. If that language is approved by the commission, the proposal will go on the citywide ballot in November for voters to weigh in.