Miami Beach City Employee Claims He Was Punished for Wearing a Wire for the FBI

Categories: News
Thumbnail image for Miami Beach seal.gif
Twelve months ago, Miami Beach seemed on the verge of a very necessary cleanup. On April 11, 2012, FBI agents arrested six city employees -- four code compliance officers and two firefighters -- and an FBI liaison stayed in city hall to look into more corruption. Beach officials urged employees to cooperate.

So when the feds asked Rick Falls -- a part-time code compliance employee -- to wear a wire, he agreed. And when they asked him to record phone conversations with his superiors, he did. But instead of a commendation for his help, Falls says all he got in return was harassment.

"They belittled me and made up petty accusations against me," Falls says of his supervisors. "I was just trying to do the right thing."

"At this point I don't think there was any retaliation" against Falls, says city spokeswoman Nannette Rodriguez. "We continue to encourage our employees to come forward and report wrongdoing."

After lead code enforcement officer Jose Alberto was arrested for taking bribes, Falls contacted the FBI to share his concerns that Alberto had quashed citations against certain South Beach hotels.

The feds told Falls they were also investigating his boss, code compliance director Robert Santos-Alborna. For several months, the agents had Falls wear a wire to record his conversations with Santos-Alborna and others. In September, however, the agents told Falls that the investigation into Santos-Alborna had gone nowhere.

(The FBI would not comment on Falls's story. His account is backed up, however, by a memo written by Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics investigator Sylvia Batista. Rodriguez confirms that Santos-Alborna was temporarily transferred. According to news reports last year, he was disciplined for -- among other things -- not reporting an affair that Alberto had with an employee.)

But Falls's problems were only beginning. A few months later, he was flabbergasted to receive a scathing performance review. When Falls tried to meet with Santos-Alborna's replacement -- Miami Beach Police Commander Hernan Cardeno -- to discuss a full-time position, the commander called him a "troublemaker" who never had a chance at getting the job, Falls says. And when Santos returned to the department, he punished him for helping the feds, Falls claims.

Falls filed complaints with both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the ethics commission, which dropped the case because Miami Beach has never adopted the county's whistleblower-protection ordinance.

Rodriguez says that the two full-time positions were filled through the regular process, but Falls was not the best candidate.

Falls disagrees. He recently had to resort to transferring out of code compliance. He says the complaints aren't about money -- or even him -- but providing a record for future whistleblowers.

"I tried to do the right thing, but nobody spoke up for me," he says. "I just feel like I was did wrong."

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes. Follow this journalist on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.
My Voice Nation Help
4 comments
k3pgx
k3pgx

Sadly another BLACKEYE for Miami Beach. I good story. One part I didn't follow was how did a secret FBI investigation leak out to MBPD Commander  Cardeno.? I thought the Police commander was put there to supervise and tighten things up at the code department. Commander Cardeno should have praised Mr. Falls for his cooperation with Law Enforcement. I think this is a matter for Internal Affairs to investigate.

internetinternet
internetinternet

RF did all he could in a corrupt city.  Remember Miami Beach is a city that didn't even regulate drug use in nightclubs to keep the tourist dollars going.  As long as beautiful people showed up it was acceptable.  Code, police, fire and building are the last places and honest person wants to work.   

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Fashion

Loading...