MIAMI – What do an Elvis Presley impersonation and a private investigator accused of impersonating law enforcement have in common? The answer is as messy as Miami politics.
During a bizarre public commission meeting on Monday, Commissioners Joe Carollo, Manolo Reyes, Alex Díaz de la Portilla, and Jeffrey Watson voted to investigate Chief Art Acevedo.
This was after Acevedo sent a Sept. 24 memo to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and City Manager Arthur Noriega with accusations of unlawful behavior by Carollo, Reyes, and Díaz de la Portilla.
“Carollo is targeting me, in part, for my refusal to allow him to use the MPD as his personal enforcer against anyone he perceives as offensive,” Acevedo wrote days before the meeting.
In the memo, Acevedo also accused the three commissioners of intervening with investigations and getting in the way of his reforms at the Miami Police Department.
“I have uncovered a pattern of unlawful use of force by some officers ... I have begun the process of addressing this issue,” Acevedo wrote.
Suarez and Miami Commissioner Ken Russell didn’t attend the meeting. Noriega and Suarez offered Acevedo the job in March and he was sworn in with a $315,000 salary and about $123,000 in benefits in April.
“Both of you indicated there was a need to reform the MPD and to change the culture of the agency,” Acevedo wrote to Suarez and Noriega.
In June, Acevedo fired Deputy Police Chief Ronald Papier and his wife Nerly Papier, a commander in Little Havana, after an investigation found discrepancies about a city-issued vehicle crash in May.
Acevedo cited a June 24 commission meeting to accuse Carollo, Reyes, and Díaz de la Portilla of “improper efforts to influence” an internal affairs investigation into Luis Camacho, a sergeant-at-arms.
Acevedo accused Díaz de la Portilla of offering to support a campaign to lead the Miami-Dade Police Department in exchange for doing “the right thing” on Camacho.
“I have never personally experienced such interference in a confidential law enforcement investigation,” Acevedo wrote in the memo not specifying what Camacho was under investigation for.
Acevedo relieved Camacho of duty pending the results of the probe and demoted four majors. He hired Heather R. Morris from Houston PD as MPD’s first woman to serve as deputy chief.
In the memo, Acevedo said the commissioners eliminated Morris’ position in the 2021-22 budget as part of the commissioners’ “effort to harass and intimidate.”
Acevedo also alleged Carollo met with Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police Union President Tommy Reyes during the budget hearing.
Acevedo reported Carollo and Díaz de la Portilla provided a list of businesses that need to be investigated “based on nothing more than their “whims.” He alleged resources are being wasted because of “the improper political influence” and “pattern of official misconduct.”
Acevedo also reported there was a Monroe County warrant for the arrest of Frank Pichel, a private investigator who gathers “dirt” for Carrollo and other elected officials, for impersonating a law enforcement officer.
Acevedo also wrote the situation was severe enough that he was involving the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
“I have been told on numerous occasions that if I just give these commissioners what they want ... they may very well leave me alone for now,” Acevedo wrote, adding that he will not because his sworn duty is to uphold the rule of law.
Many at the Monday meeting wondered what Elvis Presley had to do with the serious accusations Acevedo made. Carollo said the man in the white jumpsuit who was dancing to “Jailhouse Rock” was Acevedo.
He was filmed during a charity event in Texas before Miami hired him, yet Carollo used the public meeting to play it and complained about his “tight pants.”
Read Acevedo’s memo