The old adage warns, “Choose your words carefully…you may have to eat them.”
I would add, “Be careful what you put in writing…especially if you’re a public official using a governmental email server.”
The lesson to be learned here cannot be overstated. If you work for the government – on any level – what you write in an email becomes an indelible public record. It can never be taken back.
A perfect example is the content in an email that was sent by North Miami Police Chief Leonard Burgess on March 5, 2015, addressed to City Manager Aleem Ghany, and others, with copies to the Mayor and Council.
I won’t comment on his poor spelling, grammar and general butchery of the English language.
I also won’t comment on his creatively fuzzy math with crime stats (“Note the Crime Index Rating for NM is the same as the City of Aventura.”), which topic I will address at a later time.
I was not involved in this SH [sexual harassment] incident, the names of the two parties that were involved in this incident was investigated by MDPD IA Bureau, and involved party was disciplined/ demoted.
I’m not sure who the “two parties that were involved in this incident” are, because according to the file I received, on November 5, 2008 a complaint was filed with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) by Major Carmen Pichardo against then Miami-Dade Police Department Chief Leonard Burgess on charges of (anyone wanna guess?) Sexual Harassment.
You know, the “SH incident” that Leonard Burgess claimed, in writing, that he “was not involved in.”
First, there was the complaint.
The fifty four page file is filled with all sorts of interesting information, including accusations of inappropriate texting and emailing, golf game bonding exercises, and demotions for those unwilling to play the game.
According to the FDLE’s Investigative Summary, Major Carmen Pichardo gave a statement alleging “misconduct against Chief Leonard Burgess” which was “a component of a prior investigation in which Maj. Carmen Pichardo was the complainant.”
As you can see by the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Preliminary Case Report for Internal Affairs Case #2009-0006 against Police Division Chief Leonard Burgess, at the bottom of the first page it states:
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT (FDLE) AGENTS PAUL MARCUS AND KELLY RAWSON PROVIDED INFORMATION TO THE MIAMI-DADE POLICE DEPARTMENT REGARDING A SEXUAL HARASSMENT INVESTIGATION CONDUCTED BY FDLE. FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION REFER TO FDLE CASE NUMBER MI-48-2403.
It would appear that Chief Leonard Burgess’ claim that he “was not involved in this SH [sexual harassment] incident,” is a flat out lie.
In the FDLE Investigative Summary, Major Pichardo also alleged that because she “expressed concerns about Chief Burgess to Assistant Director James Loftus,” she was “transferred out of the Economic Crimes Bureau (ECB) in retaliation” for making her complaint, when “all of a sudden, she became a problem.”
Then there was the golf game.
According to her sworn statement to FDLE Special Agent Paul Marcus, after a meeting on May 18, 2007, and subsequent “lunch with several other Miami-Dade Employees,” Major Pichardo received a phone call from Chief Burgess, telling her to “meet him at Calusa Country Club.” She stated that “she thought there were going to be other majors there to play golf,” but “when she arrived she only saw Chief Burgess, Lt. Israel McKee and Sgt. Ralph Rodriguez.”
She also explained to Special Agent Marcus that on previous occasions when she had met with Burgess “other than work related whether lunch or whatever, the other majors were present.” On this particular occasion, however, she expressed, “I felt uncomfortable when I didn’t see any other majors, and I felt uncomfortable too when I saw that it was a lieutenant and sergeant that were … obviously good friends of his.”
Upon her arrival at the golf course, Major Pichardo noted that “they had homemade mojito drinks that one of them had made.”
The Major also noted several times throughout the interview that the day after the golf game, and specifically because alcohol was being served, she “put in a slip,” which basically means she officially declared herself off-duty for the duration of the golf outing. Major Pichardo told the investigaor that she “took a sip” of the mojito but threw it out “because I’m not a drinker.”
The day was summed up, in the Major’s own word, as “bizarre.” She said she felt uncomfortable because she didn’t know her fellow guests, and because of “the drinking part,” which she wasn’t planning for. Major Pichardo told Special Agent Marcus:
And the only reason why I went was because I thought if I didn’t go, he’s my chief, and you know, he likes bonding, and you know, we’re in a specialized division, I liked my job very much. I was learning my job … as a new major assigned to Economic Crimes.
So the only reason I went was … it gives me an opportunity to bond with … our group and the other majors which are all very good majors … that he had under his division, and I was kind of like the underdog. So that’s basically the only reason why I went thinking that they would be there.
When Special Agent Marcus asked Major Pichardo if there was any indication that if she didn’t accept the chief’s invitation to play golf would her job be in jeopardy. She replied, “No, no really. Because like I said, he’s you know … highly interpersonal and, you know, sociable.” She further explained because since she was new to the bureau, and because she had already declined one of his invitations to “bond” on a golf course, she told herself, “you must go.” She also admitted that she wasn’t forcefully pressured into going this time, but insinuated that the chief “made you feel bad if you didn’t.”
Carmen Pichardo stated numerous times how uncomfortable she was during the entire two hour ordeal, and she “just knew” that she “wasn’t going to be playing golf anymore if he asked me again.”
A few days later she received an “unusual e-mail from Chief Burgess” asking how “Miss Tiger Woods” was doing.
As you might imagine, this didn’t sit well with the Major.
Then there was the trip to Mexico.
In June of 2007, Major Pichardo attended an annual Auto Theft Export Summit sponsored by the North American Export Committee in Mexico because of her position in the Economic Crimes Bureau, along with the Auto Theft Task Force. The Committee was presenting an award to Chief Leonard Burgess on behalf of the Miami-Dade Police Department, whose presence was requested, along with Lieutenant Greg Terp, who chaired the committee, and a Chris Damante, who was on the executive board. In addition to her position in the Department, Major Pichardo was also chosen to attend to help with the translation in Spanish “because obviously it was going to be in Mexico, so there was Spanish speakers as well as Anglos.”
While she was on board the airplane waiting to take off for Mexico, Major Pichardo stated that “Chief Lenny Burgess sent me a text message saying, ‘The pilot would like for you to be his copilot, Chica Rica.'”
For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, “Chica Rica” translates to “Delicious Girl.”
Needless to say, the Major “thought that was very strange and inappropriate” and did not respond.
Ten minutes later her seatmate, Greg Terp, received a message from Chief Burgess saying, “Pilot wants to know if the lady next to you your WOMEN, inquiring minds.”
Special Agent Paul Marcus confirmed that Major Pichardo and Lt. Terp thought both messages were “strange.”
While in Mexico, Major Pichardo kept her distance from Leonard Burgess except for work related issues, stating for the record again that, “I didn’t feel comfortable after the golf.”
Then there was the
After the Mexico trip, Major Pichardo went on vacation for a week. While she was away, she found out that “Chief Lenny Burgess had had some meetings … and had told my staff open up, tell me what’s going on, you know, and it was like really bizarre because he had never sat down with me and told me anything, that there was like any issues that he needed to address or not address, or any concerns he had with me.”
At this point, Major Pichardo felt that she was being targeted because she had previously expressed concerns about Chief Burgess’ behavior to Assistant Director James Loftus regarding “the golf outing and the inappropriate e-mails,” according to the FDLE Investigative Summary.
She was then “abruptly transferred out, like this (snapping sound), out of the blue, you know, from one day to the other.”
“Like within two days later,” according to her statement.
During a meeting with the Assistant Director, Loftus told her that Chief Burgess complained that the Major wasn’t “communicating things to him, that he has to find things out from … other people in the bureau.” She also told Special Agent Marcus that she calls or emails the Chief almost daily to keep him informed, and that she “wasn’t aware of the fact that he felt I was withholding information.”
A couple days after that meeting, Loftus called her and Chief Leonard Burgess to his office. Major Pichardo stated that Chief Burgess “pretended that he didn’t know what [the meeting] was about.” It was at that meeting that Loftus told her that he received a call from the Director and that “you’re transferred effective Monday.”
The Major stated that she was shocked. She also said she believed she was transferred because she upset Chief Burgess by going “above his head to complain about him.”
A couple days later on August 28, 2007, Major Pichardo was again called to the office of Assistant Director Loftus to meet with members of the Professional Compliance Bureau (MDPD Internal Affairs). She was asked if she had filed a complaint against Chief Lenny Burgess, at which time “she indicated ‘No’ and that she understood the proper venue for lodging a complaint would be with the Professional Compliance Bureau.”
The Major told Special Agent Marcus, “So at this point, when PCB comes … to see if, if I have a complaint, of course I don’t have a complaint … there’s already been retaliation … for me speaking up, so I have nothing else to say.”
Undoubtedly, she probably already said too much.
Major Carmen Pichardo left the interview feeling bitter. She said she accepted her new assignment because she respected the Director and his decisions. But the way she was treated when she tried to blow the whistle on Chief Leonard Burgess “left a bitter taste.”
Did I originally want to file a complaint? No. For what? You know? You know, it was pointless. I got transferred. So what’s the point.
So that’s when I brought it up again, because it was just something else to add in, in what I felt was like unfairness and people using their position and power to their benefit.
FDLE Special Agent Paul Marcus wrapped up the interview with Major Carmen Pichardo by asking her if she felt she had been sexually harassed by Chief Burgess. She responded that by the definition of sexual harassment of the Department’s policies and procedures, which calls for the continuous soliciting of sex “or something like that,” then no, he was not soliciting her for sex.
She added, “Do I feel that as a chief, his actions were inappropriate and … uncalled for and that, you know, if I went to his boss to address my concern, he should have addressed it with me and just let it be and realize that I didn’t want to do any bonding or any golf playing with him? I just wanted to do my job.”
Major Pichardo continued:
Was it sexual harassment in the classical definition of sexual harrassment? No.
Was it inappropriate behavior by a chief, and I was the one that was punished? Yes.
Did I accept it? Yes.
Did I want to continue and make a big stink about it? No.
I just wanted to move on, do my job, and you know, and let it die.
In closing, Major Pichardo stated, “I’ve been on for 15 years, and I’ve worked with numerous men, and I’ve never had this type [of] inappropriate behavior by a boss or somebody, a position of power, and I’ve worked with a lot of very good and reputable men in my opinion.”
FDLE Special Agent Paul Marcus told me today that he had no choice but to turn the file back over to Miami-Dade Police Department because Major Pichardo eventually decided not to pursue her complaint against Leonard Burgess.
She made it painfully clear that she just wanted to “let it die.”
The members of the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Professional Compliance Bureau were only too happy to “let it die,” too.
It his close-out Memorandum, Sergeant Milton Hall of the Internal Affairs Section stated, “Based on the aforementioned information and supporting official documents, no further action is required by the PCB.”
Sadly, harassment is an all too common occurrence in the workplace, especially where there is a hierarchy of power. Whether it’s an abuse of that power, or just for sport, there will always be bullies at the top of the food chain.
There also seems to be the unspoken expectation that anyone with aspirations for advancement had better keep his or her mouth shut.
Most, but certainly not all, victims of bullying are women. They seem to be easy targets for some type of sexual harassment, whether it’s “harmless” flirting or overt pressure to perform a sexual act. The consequences for not complying (golf, anyone?) can range anywhere from ostracism, to demotion, to transfer, to outright firing.
The most courageous thing a woman can do is file an official complaint when she believes she is being harassed. Unfortunately, the process tends to be so tortuous that many victims who do file formal complaints end up dropping the charges because the backlash for going the distance is too severe. In many instances, the women who are legitimately harassed open themselves up to retaliation by blowing the whistle.
In reviewing this file, it wasn’t hard to immediately see that Major Carmen Pichardo decided that following through with her complaint to the practically pointless end wasn’t worth the aggravation. She just wanted to do her job and be left alone.
I don’t know if Major Pichardo is still with the Miami-Dade Police Department. She may have changed jobs or retired by now. But wherever she is, I hope she found her peace.
As for North Miami Police Chief Leonard Burgess, I hope he gets what he deserves.
“Spreading the Wealth”