On Friday, New Times
published a three-month investigation into Miami Beach Fire Rescue (MBFR). It showed that MBFR leaders and other city officials ignored evidence of corruption. Millions of dollars in permit fees mysteriously went missing. And the two employees who did complain were forced out.
It now seems as if the investigation -- which hits newsstands later today -- has struck a nerve with at least some Miami Beach politicians. Commissioner Jerry Libbin has asked for an "emergency discussion" today to review our findings.
Libbin is asking city officials to "provide a point-by-point accounting at the next Commission meeting, March 13, 2013, in response to the recent Miami New Times article which alleges corruption by certain city departments."
- Miami Beach Fire Department Is Aflame With Corruption and Abuse
Any such discussion will take place against a backdrop of city politics. Last week, commissioners narrowed down the list of potential city managers to three candidates
. Meanwhile, with Mayor Matti Bower's third and final term expiring later this year, several city commissioners are eying her office.
Whoever fills the positions will have to deal with a city still wracked by corruption, including a fire department with suspect leadership, little oversight, and a playboy culture that has led to multiple lawsuits.
• Millions of dollars' worth of fire permit fees went missing or were written off by inspectors, including those now charged with taking roughly $25,000 from club Dolce.
• City officials ignored repeated, detailed warnings about those missing funds.
• Top fire officials were warned about inspectors taking bribes from a South Beach hotel to ignore thousands of dollars in code violations, but did nothing.
• One powerful fireman, union president Adonis Garcia, has been accused of three assaults, bilking the county out of $76,000 in property taxes, and abusing his authority as a firefighter.
• A female firefighter successfully sued the department over repeated sexual harassment, including semen-stained clothing and death threats, winning $700,000.
• An African-American recruit was awarded $100,000 after alleging racial abuse, including being teabagged and called racial epithets by fellow firemen.
In light of the April 2012 arrests of seven city employees -- including firefighters Chai Footman and Henry Bryant -- for corruption, fire chief Javier Otero has some explaining to do. March 13 would be a good time to start.
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