Timoney Challenges Investigative Panel's Authority

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Two hours before Miami Police Chief John Timoney was slated to answer questions today about his use of a free Lexus, a citizens group learned he would be a no-show.

Just last week, a circuit judge ordered the top-cop to comply with the Miami Civilian Investigative Panel’s subpoenas to testify and fork over documents related to the Lexus SUV. After the court sided with the group, it asked Timoney to appear today at 1 p.m.

The five-year-old panel probes police complaints. It had been unsuccessfully pushing the chief for answers since late November and went to the courts for help in late December.

Brenda Shapiro, the panel chairwoman, contends that the dispute stems from Timoney not believing in the group’s right to investigate. “The chief, now the city, are challenging our authority,” she says. “That is a very important issue for the City of Miami. The longer it lingers, the less confidence the people will have in our ability to function.”

Shapiro said the city attorney faxed the panel a letter about two hours before the hearing to request it be pushed back “to allow the City Manager the time necessary to intervene in this matter.” (The Herald’s site reported today that Timoney refused to appear on advice from legal counsel after Wednesday’s story in the New Times. Because the group agreed to postpone the meeting, Shapiro, who is a lawyer, believes Timoney is not in contempt of the judge’s Jan. 4 order.

She says: “All the chief had to do was sit down and answer some questions and you wouldn't have known about it. Now, it's a media event. Not by our creation but because the chief decided to make it such by challenging us. We have to meet (that) challenge.” -- Janine Zeitlin

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