North Miami Police Department Assistant Chief Larry Juriga got his panties twisted because former City Manager Aleem Ghany allegedly referred to him as a “redneck.”
He was also upset that Aleem allegedly said that two former mayors “hate him.”
According to a Charge of Discrimination he filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on July 6, 2015, Larry Juriga claimed that while he was on his cell phone with Aleem, he accidentally overheard Aleem tell his wife that Juriga was a “redneck” and that “they hate him.”
When Juriga confronted Aleem, he allegedly admitted everything. He also allegedly revealed that the individuals who “hate him” were Andre Pierre and Joe Celestin, “two politically influential Haitian-American former mayors, whom Mr. Ghany quoted as accusing me (falsely) of meeting weekly with white officers to plan how to block promotions of black and Hispanic officers.”
But, wait! There’s more!
Larry Juriga also claimed that he’s being discriminated against because he’s white.
Yes, you read that correctly.
In his complaint, Juriga wrote, “I have suffered discrimination on account of my race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
Interestingly, Juriga noted in his complaint that in the 21 years he has been a police officer for the City of North Miami, “the demographics have shifted to an African-American/Haitian majority.” He also lamented that a “white police chief and white assistant police chief were forced out in 2010.” (More on that in a moment.)
In addition, Juriga groused that since 2010 “all three chiefs … have been black.” And yet inexplicably, it didn’t dawn on him that until 2010 there had been only one black chief in the entire history of the North Miami Police Department – the same one who jump started Juriga’s rise up the proverbial corporate ladder. (More on that in a moment, too.)
For some reason, it also never bothered Larry Juriga that North Miami has never had an Hispanic Chief of Police (or Assistant Chief, for that matter), despite the fact that Hispanics represented 27.1% of North Miami’s population in 2010.
In any event, Assistant Chief Juriga claims that he was passed over for the chief’s position in 2011 in favor of Marc Elias, and again in 2014 in favor of his boss, Chief Lenny Burgess because he’s white.
And yet, he’s apparently forgotten how many doors have been opened for him because, well, he happens to be white.
Larry Juriga’s unlikely, yet meteoric, rise to assistant chief had nothing to do with his abilities or performance as a law enforcement officer, but everything to do with being in the right place at the right time.
Which is also known as dumb luck.
His 2003 promotion to major was a gift from Gwen Boyd, North Miami’s first black Chief of Police. Immediately after she was hired in 2002, Chief Boyd promoted then-Sergeant Stephen Johnson two ranks to Commander, bypassing the next level of lieutenants, and never even considering any of the other sergeants, all of whom happened to be white. In response, a group of sergeants and lieutenants filed a lawsuit, claiming discrimination.
If Juriga felt that he was discriminated against for being white, why didn’t he join in that lawsuit?
Because in order to defend herself against charges of discrimination, Chief Boyd needed to promote a non-black and Larry Juriga was a likely candidate. Even though he had failed the lieutenant’s exam, Chief Boyd promoted then-Sergeant Juriga two ranks to Major, over an entire class of lieutenants who were not even considered for promotion, some of whom had been patiently waiting their turn for years.
In 2010, the same year that Juriga disingenuously claimed that a white chief and white assistant chief were “forced out,” Juriga rose to the rank of assistant chief.
The part that Juriga conveniently left out was that those two individuals were not forced out but chose to leave the department. At the time the economy had taken a huge downturn, and there was a mass exodus from the police department due to looming budget, salary and benefit cuts.
Once everyone jumped ship, only two majors remained – Johnson and Juriga. Johnson was then appointed as Interim Chief. As soon as Johnson was appointed as the permanent Chief, Juriga became his Assistant Chief.
In addition to Juriga’s claim that he has been “marginalized in the department” because he’s white, his complaint also included allegations against Aleem Ghany based on his word alone, with absolutely no corroboration of record.
- Juriga claimed that Aleem Ghany not only called him a “redneck,” but also that Ghany admitted it and apologized.
- Juriga also claimed that Ghany said that Andre Pierre and Joe Celestin made certain accusations against Juriga, and that when pressed to explain why Ghany “had not done anything about these allegations,” Ghany had no answer.
- And finally, Larry Juriga claimed that Ghany promised him a promotion to “assistant city manager, overseeing the police department,” and never followed through.
As a side note, I’d like to remind Assistant Chief Juriga that Aleem promised lots of things that never came to fruition. For one, he told this blogger early last year when the Jodlyn Antoine scandal broke that he was going to either demote or terminate the chief. We all know that didn’t happen.
Here’s the thing.
While we can all assume that the allegations made by Assistant Chief Juriga are true, the fact remains that neither Aleem Ghany nor the City of North Miami (the Respondent) have admitted to any of them.
Among other items, the Mediation Settlement Agreement specifically states, “It is understood that this agreement does not constitute an admission by Respondent of any violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
The city does agree, however, that “there shall be no discrimination or retaliation of any kind” against Larry Juriga for filing the complaint.
Even so, in the interest of “closure,” and “as evidence of a good faith effort to resolve” the complaint, the City of North Miami agreed to give a boatload of money to Assistant Chief Juriga for all his pain and suffering.
For starters, there’s a lump sum of cash money in the amount of $32,490.00.
As I mentioned in my previous column, the settlement payment was to be issued in two checks, one to Juriga for $24,990.00, and the other to his attorney for $7,500.00. Since neither one of these checks were over the City Manager’s discretionary spending limit of $25,000.00, this payoff could, and did, fly under the radar of Mayor and Council.
Secondly, the City of North Miami agreed to give Juriga a one time salary increase to match the salary of Chief Leonard Burgess as of September 18, 2015. I was advised by the City that this raise amounted to approximately 5% of Larry Juriga’s salary. While Assistant Chief Gary Eugene continues to earn the smallest paycheck on the North Miami Police Department’s Command Staff, Larry Juriga is now earning a chief’s salary.
And finally, according to the terms of the Mediated Settlement Agreement, Larry Juriga gets his “health insurance benefits” paid by the City of North Miami until he turns 65.
All courtesy of North Miami taxpayers.
Instead of bringing the EEOC complaint to his five bosses and asking for direction, Aleem negotiated a settlement behind closed doors.
Mind you, this was not a complaint against a general employee whose superior is the City Manager. It was a complaint filed against the City Manager himself. It seems highly unethical, and perhaps even illegal, for Aleem to negotiate the terms of his own settlement without the consent of his own superiors – in this case, the Mayor and Council.
Maybe Aleem should reimburse the city’s taxpayers for all this money down the drain. After all, it was his screw up and not theirs.
As for Juriga, he finagled a five figure settlement for being called a redneck.
“Spreading the Wealth”
UPDATE: Screen shot of Juriga’s complaint: