Less than forty eight hours ago, Miami Gardens Police Chief Stephen E. Johnson was at the top of his game. He had a great job, a beautiful wife, a family, and a brand new $548,000.00 home in Davie.
After leaving his position as the scandal-plagued City Manager for North Miami, Stephen Johnson finally got the chance to reinvent himself and get back into police work.
When the Miami Gardens Police Department had a vacancy for the top job after Chief Matthew Boyd retired, Johnson applied and got the position. “He was hired last April as the Miami Gardens Police Chief at a time when city leaders wanted to improve the department’s image amid complaints against the department of racial profiling,” according to a report by the Sun-Sentinel.
Johnson got out of North Miami as fast as he could. Given enough time and distance between him and his former city, he might have been able to finally shed his much deserved image as Andre Pierre’s henchman-slash-accomplice. With his arrest Friday night in “a threeway sex-for-hire sting,” as USA Today so sleazily put it, Stephen Johnson’s reinvention came to a screeching halt.
Stephen Johnson moved up the ranks at the North Miami Police Department for a 25-year long career until he was promoted to interim Chief, and then permanent Chief, under former City Manager Russell Benford. Two months into his position as the new Chief of Police, Stephen Johnson brought in three individuals from outside agencies for top positions.
Marc Elias, was recruited as Johnson’s Assistant Chief, despite Elias’ troubled past as the fired Florida City Chief of Police for allegations of sexual harassment. No charges were ever filed.
Stephen Johnson also recruited Leonard Burgess as a Major, who had just retired as Deputy Director of the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department. Burgess briefly served as Interim Director until Timothy P. Ryan was hired as Director of the Department. Ryan was brought in from the Santa Clara County Department of Correction in San Jose, California, where he had served as chief of correction.
As reported on November 9, 2006 by Miami Today, Mr. Ryan was expected to “take over from interim director Leonard Burgess on Dec. 4. Mr. Ryan, 58, inherits a $290 million budget, 2,500 employees and an organization that has been wracked by squabble and scandal. County Manager George Burgess, who picked Mr. Ryan for the job, says he expects him to reform and rebuild the department.”
The County Manager apparently needed outside help to clean up the mess created by those already inside the Department.
Obviously, Interim Director Leonard Burgess was not that person.
Johnson’s third recruit was former City of Miami Lieutenant Franzia Brea-Burden, who was hired at NMPD as a Commander.
In 2011, City Manager Russell Benford resigned from his position and was replaced by Police Chief Stephen Johnson to serve as Interim City Manager and eventually, as permanent City Manager.
Even though there are five elected representatives on the dais, it’s commonly believed that then Mayor Andre Pierre was the driving force behind Johnson’s promotion. After all, Andre did owe Johnson a favor or two.
Like the time the Chief ordered a few dozen police-style badges for Andre.
Or the time Johnson installed hidden cameras in the Mayor’s office at his request.
After all, under the North Miami Friends & Family Plan, no back goes unscratched.
Once Stephen Johnson was named permanent City Manager, he made sure to reward his very special proteges.
Johnson promoted Marc Elias to Chief of Police, Leonard Burgess to Assistant Chief, and Franzia Brea-Burden to Major, all the while bypassing many other highly qualified candidates.
Unfortunately, Marc Elias was eventually forced to resign … after being forced to chauffeur/provide security for then Mayor Lucie Tondreau, who was herself arrested three months later.
Johnson then gifted his buddy Lenny Burgess with the position of Chief.
We already know how well that’s working out.
As for Johnson’s third recruit, Franzia Brea-Burden, whose dreams of becoming an Assistant Chief were thwarted when Burgess had to finally give Gary Eugene the promotion he was due, she’s still stuck at Major.
At least she’ll be freed up this summer for another Jamaican vacay with Andre & Friends.
Stephen Johnson has fallen from grace in a most humiliating way.
Upon his release from jail early Saturday morning, he told reporters, “The stress overwhelmed me, and I made a very bad decision.”
Judging by the wreckage Stephen Johnson left behind at the top of the NMPD food chain, this was only one in a long line of “very bad decisions.”
Miami Gardens City Manager Cameron Benson wasted no time in firing Johnson.
In an eerily similar statement to the one recently made by North Bay Village Manager Frank Rollason when he fired his Chief of Police, Benson told the Miami Herald, “As manager I have the responsibility to hire and fire department heads. I didn’t have to go through anyone to do that.”
Likewise, North Miami City Manager Aleem Ghany does not need permission from the elected officials to make the same decision.
By virtue of his position, Mr. Ghany has the ultimate power to hire and fire the Chief of Police at will.
He also has the responsibility, as well as the unique opportunity, to rid North Miami of Stephen Johnson’s legacy of “very bad decisions” for once and for all.
Here’s hoping Aleem has what it takes to do the right thing.
“Spreading the Wealth”