Monday, July 15, 2013

The truth behind the embattled City of South Miami police chief Orlando Martinez de Castro's ethics hearing.

As you all know embattled City of South Miami police chief Orlando Martinez de Castro got a slap on the wrist and a small fine that was classified as "investigative costs" by the ethics commission.  A total farce in my opinion.  Our friend Al Crespo did a bang up job covering the hearing and also included a short video of what went on, check it...

That's all well and good, to the average guy it seems like the chief had his day before this quasi judicial panel and after a year and a half this was the outcome.

The Miami Herald even follows up their original story and gives the reader a glimmer of hope that the chief might still suffer a more serious punishment than what was doled out last week...
The draft final order written by Murawski states the commission “specifically made no finding as to whether the violation was or was not ‘willful.’”
That draft order has not yet been adopted by the commission, and each side will present draft final orders for the ethics commission to consider next month.
This part about the violations that the chief pled no contest to being "willfull" is the most important part though as if the commission finds that the violations are willful, the chief automatically forfeits his job as the chief of police.  While the commission is going to vote on this part of the chief's deal next month, it's just a matter of them deciding which final order the commission is going to adopt, the one written by the commission or the one written by the chief's attorney.  That's a good one isn't it?  The commission adopting an order written by the defendants attorney?!

In case there's any of you who don't realize what went on here and need further clarification, let's make it a bit clearer using some photos.  Before we start, let's preface this discussion with the claim that City of South Miami police chief Orlando Martinez de Castro makes about his relationship with our State Attorney, Katherine Ferndandez Rundle, according to everything I've heard, the chief claims that he is one of Rundle's closest friends and confidants, so close in fact that they're borderline family.  Good enough.  With that in mind, let's take a look at who attended this ethics hearing, starting with the head of the ethics commission himself, Joe Centorino...

Read more here:
I know it's a shitty picture, I lifted it from Al Crespo's video of the actual hearing.  Look how interested Joe looks in what's going on and what's being discussed.  Let's not forget that Mr. Centorino was the former head of public corruption over at the state attorneys office, Rundle's golden boy for when she wanted to prosecute political figures.  From his own bio...
Joseph Centorino assumed the position of Executive Director of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust on September 1, 2011, following his laudatory 25-year career at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. For most of that time, he served as Chief of the Public Corruption Division where he oversaw the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed by public officers and employees.
Good enough, anyone with a modicum of common sense can see that there is a pretty strong relationship between Mr. Centorino and our state attorney Ms Rundle.

Now, let's move on to the chief's attorney, Mr Simon Steckel, from an old New Times article regarding Mr. Steckel...

Steckel nonetheless was at the peak of his professional life. As a successful prosecutor he had moved quickly up the ladder at the Dade State Attorney's Office. Over four short years he had risen from intern to supervisor, then division chief.
Another former prosecutor, a division chief no less.  While I don't know of any direct relationship between Mr. Steckel and our state attorney, the possibility for some sort of connection is there.

Now, the last member of the chief's defense team is in my opinion the most interesting, take a look at this guy...

That's attorney Michael Band, another former top prosecutor with close ties to our state attorney, Mr. Band was one of our state attorneys most trusted division chief's as well as a close personal and family friend.  What exactly was he doing at this hearing?  Just how many attorney's does the chief need to defend a case before the ethics commission?

Regardless of what Mr. Band was doing at the hearing, the scene that played out was an obvious one, an alleged good friend of one of the most powerful people in South Florida, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, is being prosecuted by a commission that's led by one of her former top and closest employees and as luck would have it, another former top employee and family friend is representing her friend in front of the ethics commission.  Come on, honestly, did anyone expect an outcome any different than what we got?  Can you possibly think of a better example of how this network of politically connected folks down here protects their own?

From the get go, this entire ethics case has been nothing more than a sham, a dog and pony show, an orchestrated scheme to make the citizens of our county think there was some sort of watchdog watching over politicians and public employees.  I think the relationship between the folks that run the ethics commission, the attorneys that represented the chief and our state attorney will make you think twice about how "ethical" the handling of this case was.

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