The Miami Civilian Investigative Panel was doomed to fail from the start because of inflated salaries, conflict of interest, hindrance from executives and counsel, nepotism and ineptitude, according to a scathing letter from its former chief investigator.
Steven Wolf, a veteran police officer who spent three years as chief investigator, was recently laid off through budget cuts.
Meanwhile, Shirley Richardson – who was fired as executive director of the CIP in January for being incompetent – was reinstated this week by Miami City Manager Pete Hernandez who felt sorry for her, according to CBS.
She is now an investigator making $86,000 a year. She has absolutely no law enforcement experience to contribute to the agency that was created in 2001 to provide citizen oversight to the Miami Police Department, which had developed a horrid reputation for misconduct.
In fact, she has “intentionally thwarted and hindered investigative staff from conducting investigations” and used her authority to “minimize the number of negative findings of misconduct against Miami police officers,” according to Wolf’s letter, which was delivered to Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and the City Commission on October 15.
One of the cases that she thwarted was the investigation of Miami Police Chief John Timoney, who was being investigated for violating ethics laws when he accepted a free Lexus SUV from a Miami auto dealer, according to the letter.
The letter also accuses independent counsel Charles Mays and interim director Carol Abia of interfering with cases.
Mays is the assistant city attorney who helped broker the notorious fire-fee scandal in which a $7 million class action settlement was distributed to seven people instead of to all of Miami’s taxpayers.
He is currently being investigated by the Florida Bar for allegedly violating five legal ethics rules in that case.
He has also abused his role as attorney for the investigative panel, making himself “gatekeeper” on what evidence and information reaches the panel, making it impossible for investigators to conduct a thorough investigation, according to Wolf’s letter.
And he has a tendency to embarrass investigators and panel members who disagree with him, creating an aura of intimidation within the panel that result in positive outcomes for the accused police officer.
And more alarmingly, Mays failed to stand up for the investigative panel when the Miami Police Department illegally denied them public records request, the letter states.
Besides prohibiting a panel investigator from interviewing key personnel in the Timoney case, Mays thwarted an investigation from a complaint filed by a prosecutor from the Broward County State Attorney’s Office.
Nicole Alvarez complained that she was sandwiched by two Miami police cars as she was driving south on I-95. She described the officers as playing “cat and mouse” with her. She said she was finally pulled over and given a ticket for tailgating them.
“Independent counsel (Mays) refused to issue a subpoena for cell phone records that were material to the case and ignored a request for assistance in compelling the police department to turn over relevant documents in a public records request,” the letter states.
Wolf also accuses Mays of keeping part-time hours even though he was raking in a full-time salary as well as ignoring memos from investigators, refusing to issue subpoenas and deliberately concealing case files.
“Case files have frequently turned up missing and have been found in the independent counsel’s office, concealed in his filing cabinets, under his desk or hidden in his disheveled office.
“Mr. Mays was well aware that staff were frequently looking for missing files and when panel members questioned the investigative staff about the missing files, the independent counsel ‘threw staff under the bus’ placing blame on poor logging procedures in spite of the fact that he knowingly concealed files in his officer and never returned them to their proper location.”
Wolf, who has filed a whistleblower complaint with the city, believed he became a victim of retaliation when they decided to slash his salary by 26 percent in July.
A year earlier, Richardson gave herself a 5 percent raise while eliminating two staff positions, the letter states.
Wolf also states that he is not the only former CIP employer with these feelings:
“It may seem initially what follows in indicative of a disgruntled employee except for the fact that over the past three years, nine employees have resigned citing the same or similar problems that I document in this letter.”
Wolf concludes his 15-page letter by stating “the City of Miami, the mayor and perhaps even the commission has broken its promise to the Miami citizens that was made in 2002.
"It is wrongly giving the citizens of Miami a false sense of civilian/police oversight that has failed miserably and is wasting taxpayer’s dollar to essentially provide the prior executive director, the current interim director and the independent counsel with inflated salaries and benefits with almost nothing to show for it.”