Miami fires police chief after tumultuous six-month tenure

Miami fires police chief after tumultuous six-month tenure 3

city commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to fire Police Chief Art Acevedo just six months after he assumed the post.

The five-member commission conducted a 4½-hour quasi-judicial hearing, acting as “judges” and hearing from four witnesses, before they decided to terminate Acevedo just days after he was suspended by Miami City Manager Art Noriega.

The expected decision came after several contentious weeks of controversy and acrimonious exchanges between Acevedo and commissioners Joe Carollo, Manolo Reyes and Alex Díaz de la Portilla.

Acevedo’s attorney, John Byrne, blasted the commission in his opening remarks, saying that the decision was “preordained” and that members had violated the city charter by not giving Acevedo the afforded time to prepare his case.

Byrne said that the charter allows five days and that he and Acevedo had had much less to prepare, resulting in Byrne’s not calling any witnesses or presenting any evidence during the hearing.

“We don’t forfeit our right in a fair setting. This is not a fair setting,” Byrne said.

Díaz de la Portilla asked Byrne several times whether Acevedo was “paying his bills.”

Byrne said multiple times that Acevedo was suspended and terminated because he wrote a fiery memo on Sept. 24 accusing three commissioners of interfering in his internal affairs and of retaliating against him by eliminating the budget for crucial high-level police positions, among other actions. He compared some of the commissioners’ moves to those of communist Cuba.

“Every single allegation made against him [that was] presented predated sending that memo, and that tells us that Chief Acevedo wasn’t suspended for those claimed reasons,” Byrne said. “He was suspended because he had courage to do what many don’t, to speak truth to power.”

Outside counsel whom Noriega hired to defend his decision to suspend Acevedo laid out the eight reasons listed in the memorandum sent to Acevedo, relieving him of his duties.

Among them was the claim that rank-and-file officers and the executive staff had lost confidence in Acevedo, leading him to lose his ability to lead the department, said Noriega’s attorney, Stephanie Marchman.

He also made unauthorized comments about Covid-19 vaccination requirements, failed to report his personal and vacation time and offended the community by telling 300 officers that the city was run by the “Cuban Mafia,” Marchman said.

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