Thursday, June 30, 2011
7 News Investigations: Opa-Locka
The turmoil continues in the city of Opa-Locka tonight. The latest issues: Allegations of ethical violations and claims of an affair. Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero has the story.
WSVN -- On the surface, things look pretty quiet in Opa-Locka.
But there are so many issues simmering in this city that at any time, any one of them just might boil over.
Carmel Cafiero: "What about the integrity of your department? It's under attack here, is it not?"
As we first reported, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting a criminal investigation of the Opa-Locka Police Department.
It includes allegations officers traded sex in exchange for dismissing charges against accused criminals.
Chief Cheryl Cason, Opa-Locka Police Department: "With all due respect, I am unable to comment due to it being under investigation."
The police chief refused to address the charges, which also include allegations of police officers having inappropriate relationships with known criminals in the city.
Clarance Patterson, City Manager: "Those are serious allegations."
As City Manager Clarance Patterson reported the police department to the state for investigation.
Clarance Patterson: "A police department is very important to any city, regardless of the size."
Shortly after this interview, Patterson notified the city he was planning to step down in September.
But instead, he abruptly quit in June, giving the city just two days notice.
Mayor Myra Taylor, Opa-Locka: "We wish him well on his resignation. Once a person resigns, we have to take what they say."
Patterson's resignation letter says he was resigning "because of personal attacks by the vice mayor contacting my wife and saying that I am having extramarital affairs with a female employee at the city."
We could not reach Patterson for comment, and the vice mayor, Dorothy Johnson, turned down our request for an interview.
And now the city's top leader has come under fire.
Mayor Myra Taylor has been hit with an ethics complaint.
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics says Taylor violated the ethics code "by promoting a funding resolution that benefited the non-profit corporation she heads and improperly influenced city officials to support a special event."
The complaint claims she got $5,000 from the city and paid more than $2,600 to her daughter from money the event generated.
But despite all of these serious allegations of wrongdoing by city officials, the chief topic of discussion at the latest commission meeting...
Nicole Linsalata: "Police were pursuing those carjackers apparently, and they have confirmed to us that they shot this dog."
The bad publicity generated from police shooting a dog.
Mayor Myra Taylor: "We do not want anyone thinking we are not sensitive to animals."
Carmel Cafiero: "The mayor didn't want to talk with us about her ethics complaint. It's the kind of reaction we got from everyone involved in all this. But at some point, these issues will have to be addressed, and Opa-Locka, which calls itself 'The Great City,' will have to do so in great detail."