The City of Miami Gardens just can’t get a break.
First, Police Chief Stephen Johnson got himself arrested in a prostitution sting on Friday night. He was promptly fired.
Yesterday, Channel 10 reported that Assistant Chief Antonio Brooklen, who was appointed as Interim Chief, was accused of sexual harassment in 2012.
If that weren’t scandalous enough, Miami Gardens City Manager Cameron Benson, the man who appointed Brooklen, was also accused of sexual harassment in 2011.
In the article, Secret sexual harassment complaints resurface in Miami Gardens after chief’s sex-for-hire arrest, Channel 10 reporter Andrea Torres wrote:
Benson also knows how it feels to have to walk out of a job with shame amid a scandal. In June 2011, he resigned from his $205,000 a year post as Hollywood city manager amid a long list of accusations.
They included bungling the city’s finances, sexual harassment and having police deliver a generator to his parents in Lauderhill.
The FBI, the Broward County state attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated him, as he left with a severance package of nearly $300,000. There was insufficient evidence, and Benson was cleared of all wrongdoing.
Adding insult to injury, Ms. Torres also noted that the Interim Chief, the City Manager and the Mayor, Oliver G. Gilbert III, are fraternity brothers* who have all “faced sexual harassment accusations during their careers.”
[*In a late update, the article noted: “CORRECTION: An original version of this story reported Monday that Benson was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, but the organization’s national finance manager John Howard said Tuesday that he is not registered as a member.”]
That’s a whole lot of scandal for a city only thirteen years old.
Although those allegations surfaced years ago, even old news is still relevant. When public officials do something scandalous, it usually comes back to haunt them when they least expect it.
Thanks to cable television and the internet, we now live in a 24-hour news cycle. Anyone with a computer, laptop, tablet or cell phone has access to news stories around the planet at the push of a button. The flow of information truly is unstoppable! News junkies can feed their habits, around the clock, from anywhere they sit.
Other excellent sources of information are online police department forums, such as my personal favorite, LeoAffairs. Some of my best exposés started with information gleaned From the LeoAffairs Mailbag.
Thanks to a reader of my previous post, I have now also discovered a blog called Truth in Policing in Miami-Dade, written by an individual who calls himself Sheriff2B, a “Veteran police supervisor with MDPD.”
As you might imagine, I tend to have a bit more respect for fellow bloggers than I do for many news reporters. Bloggers make it their business to dig up dirt that was intended to remain buried. Most bloggers, or citizen journalists, also don’t have the mixed blessing of editors or sponsors, who might try to stifle the flow of information for political or monetary reasons.
We’re also pretty damn good at sniffing out stuff that public officials don’t want you to know.
Is it true the Chief Lenny Burgess is part of the complaint made by “Major” Carmen Pichardo for sexual harassment? It’s not just Major Don Rifkin,is it? Are they relieved of duty?
Hmmm… I wondered what that’s all about.
Interestingly, the following year someone posted a similar comment on the City of Miami Police Department’s page on LeoAffairs:
06-25-2009, 09:58 AM
Hey Chavez, it appears that Chief Burgess suffers the same malady as a certain Asst. Chief in our department. He is being investigated and sued for sexually harassing a female major on their department (Pichardo).
Yeah, I think he fits right in with our department.
Of course, I immediately made yet another public records request from the Miami-Dade Police Department.
And, well, what do you know? Turns out there IS an Internal Affairs file on Leonard Burgess.
So, of course, I ordered up a copy.
Yes, when I get it, I’ll keep you posted on what hopefully will be sordid details. It should be fun.
What I find most interesting, however, is that the three Internal Affairs investigations of North Miami Police Officer Jodlyn Antoine all stemmed from complaints made by women claiming to have been harassed by him. Two of them also involved his illegal use of the police database to obtain their private information.
Internal Affairs Investigation Case No. 2011-04 resulted in the disposition panel’s determination that the allegations against Officer Antoine were SUSTAINED. For illegally accessing the police database for “queries not related to a legitimate business purpose,” Officer Jodlyn Antoine received a Written Reprimand.
Interestingly, other law enforcement officers around Florida have lost their jobs for doing the exact same thing. Yet, Antoine got slapped on the wrist and was told, in essence, nothing to see here, move right along.
The second time Officer Antoine repeated his misbehavior, instead of the termination that his chain of command recommended, Police Chief Leonard Burgess doled out some bullshit suspension that, in essence, amounted to a slightly harder slap on the wrist.
This time around, Antoine got to relax at home for more than eight months, courtesy of North Miami taxpayers. Upon his return from that vacation, he was suspended without pay for 200 hours, which was served one week on, one week off for two months.
As of February 14, 2015, he was back in action.
As for Antoine’s Internal Affairs Investigation Case No. 2012-02, regarding a woman’s complaint of harassment, the disposition panel determined that the allegations were unfounded. However, I interviewed a member of that disposition panel, who said, “We knew Antoine had a history of harassing women, but in this particular case, there simply wasn’t sufficient evidence to find the allegations sustainable. The witnesses also did not provide enough evidence for us to determine sufficiency. And since we had to review complaints on a case by case basis, in this instance we had to determine that the allegations were unfounded.”
Apparently, Officer Jodlyn is a problem child. Aside from the three Internal Affairs investigations, I’m aware that he’s been disciplined for various other infractions of the rules.
And, yes, in case you’re wondering, a public records request was already made.
Which leads us back to the original question: Why is North Miami Police Chief Leonard Burgess protecting this obvious “bad apple?”
As Channel 10 reporter Andrea Torres discovered, the “fraternity brothers” of Miami Gardens all have a history of problems in dealing with the fairer sex.
If you believe the comments made on the online police department forums … and I do … it would certainly appear that Chief Burgess might be eligible for membership in that “fraternity,” too.
Based on the complaints filed by women which led to his three Internal Affairs investigations, we already know that Officer Jodlyn Antoine has a tendency to upset the ladies, as well.
Because birds of a feather and all…
“Spreading the Wealth”