A Miami riddle: Who to believe

By Alvaro F. Fernandez

The words Miami and corruption turn up together often. The fact is, though, that corruption seems to be part of the fabric of most places around the globe – a plague possibly worse for who we are than even some diseases. Yet it still bothers me to read and hear about it on a daily basis here in my hometown.

But worse yet, the word corruption turns up even when we discuss those investigating the corrupt politicians and public officials in this town. Who knows, we may really be getting to the point of choosing between the better of two evils. In other words, at least in the world of politics, having no option but to choose among the less corrupt.

Scary thought, I know. But believe me, not so far-fetched.

Let me give you examples.

About 10 days ago we read that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle had decided to remove one of her most experienced prosecutors and investigators from the corruption probe currently taking place, at several levels, against newly elected U.S. Rep. David Rivera. Fernandez Rundle also asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take the lead in the Miami case, stating that another corruption case against a former City of Miami commissioner was being prioritized and keeping her staff too busy.

The reaction of most people in the know was to grimace and (at the very least) think: Here we go again, a connected politician getting favorable treatment from the state attorney’s office. True or not, this thought was expressed by many and thought by most.

Mayor vs. Top Cop

For the past few weeks, Miami Herald readers have been treated to the ever widening fight between Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and his police chief, Miguel Exposito. One of Mayor Regalado’s first acts after being elected was ridding the city of its former chief of police and replacing him with Exposito.

Months after the naming, Mayor Regalado then rammed through an ordinance in the city that made video gaming legal in Miami. Following that decision the police department raided numerous shops around the city arresting 28 persons and hauling away almost 400 video machines.

As the Miami Herald explains, “The chief later called a news conference to announce the mayor had interfered with the bust by asking police to back off, and asked for FBI intervention. Regalado denies the allegation, and accused police of putting him under surveillance.”

Those who question and observe these things might easily ask: Did the mayor expect a puppet or a chief of police?

Again, who and what to believe?

Top Cop takes on State Attorney

Then this past weekend we read in The Miami Herald that there is also an ongoing rift between Exposito and Fernandez Rundle. The spat deals with a number of controversial and fatal police shootings that have occurred in the Miami area over the past several months. Emails and nasty comments have been exchanged, and again, Miami and its people are the losers in this case.

But here’s what has not been reported. A reliable source within one of the departments has told me that the Exposito-Fernandez battle is as a result of the Mayor Regalado-Exposito schism. I have been told that Chief Exposito has proof of major corruption and underworld-like ties in Miami’s gaming situation. And those same gaming interests appear to have close ties to the mayor – they donated heavily to his election campaign.

It’s no surprise, I was told, that Regalado pushed through the new video game ordinance when he was first elected.

Kathy’s left out

There’s more to this drama though. Exposito’s investigations and his findings were turned over to federal authorities – not the state attorney’s office. In other words, Kathy Fernandez Rundle was left out of the initial loop.

When I asked my source why. The answer was that Exposito does not trust the local authorities to do what’s right.

Confusing, yes. Frustrating also. But typical Miami. I’m still digging. Cause a person close to both Regalado and Fernandez Rundle may be key to this Miami riddle.