Fired Miami police chief Art Acevedo sues city

Lawsuit alleges his rights were violated by city leaders

(Marta Lavandier, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

MIAMI – Former police chief Art Acevedo is suing the City of Miami after his firing last October.

The federal suit dated Wednesday names the city, City Manager Art Noriega and Commissioners Joe Carollo, Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Manolo Reyes.

Acevedo, 57, claims they violated his first amendment rights and retaliated against him after he reportedly uncovered wrongdoing at city hall. (See the full lawsuit at the bottom of this page.)

The lawsuit says his firing was in violation of Florida Whistle-blower’s Act, which protects employees against retaliatory actions for reporting abuses of power.

The complaint says that Acevedo was concerned two commissioners were trying to send police for code enforcement to specific bars and restaurants owned by a man who had supported a political opponent.

He attempted “to push back on attempts by certain City of Miami Commissioners to use the men, women, and resources of the MPD to carry out their personal agendas and use the (Miami Police Department) as their puppet,” the complaint states.

It includes details about the first public meeting to discuss Acevedo’s tenure, when commissioners played videos of him impersonating Elvis Presley in a white jumpsuit dancing the “Jailhouse Rock” at a fundraiser previous to his Miami post. They “attempted to humiliate him,” the complaint states.

The city of Miami did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Acevedo was recruited by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. At the time, he was touted as a progressive law enforcer who had headed the police department in Houston and shared ancestry with hundreds of thousands Cubans in Miami as a Havana-born refugee.

But Acevedo began making waves almost immediately after he started in the post last April by taking over internal affairs and making significant changes to his command staff. He demoted four majors and fired two high-level police officials — a married couple — because they weren’t truthful about a crash involving a city-issued SUV.

Acevedo’s lawsuit claims that Commissioners Joe Carollo, Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Manolo Reyes targeted the former chief because he wouldn’t let them use the department “to carry out their personal agendas and vendettas.”

Acevedo alleges that the commissioners tried to “weaponized” MPD to “persecute their perceived enemies and have engaged in a pattern and practice of retaliating” against those who spoke against them.

Acevedo says he was told by City Manager Art Noriega that Commissioner Carollo didn’t like Bill Fuller, co-owner of Ball & Chain and owner of other Miami-based businesses. Fuller filed a lawsuit against the city in 2021.

Acevedo says he was told by Noriega, that Carollo disliked Fuller for supporting a political opponent. Acevedo also said Commissioner Diaz de la Portilla told him to not “get caught going into any Fuller-owned businesses” because Carollo would “go crazy.”

The suit also alleges that Suarez warned the chief too, telling him to “avoid patronizing such businesses to avoid incurring the wrath of Commissioner Carollo.”

The suit alleges that Noriega called him to go to Taquerias El Mexicano, which is a business owned by Fuller. It’s alleged that Noriega was “personally looking into possible ‘violations’” at the restaurant.

He also alleges that a list of 10 bars was given to him by Diaz de la Portilla’s assistant that the commissioner would “like to see investigated.”

The lawsuit also alleges that Carollo asked Acevedo to have officers arrest “agitators” multiple times, including at a June 2021 Calle Ocho event and the Patria y Vida event at Bayfront Park, though Acevedo says the “persons were not posing any threat” and were just exercising their first amendment rights. The demonstrators were against Donald Trump and Carollo allegedly “ordered Chief Acevedo to ‘arrest those communists and get them the hell out of here.’”

According to the suit, Acevedo expressed his concerns about the three commissioners to Suarez and Noriega, saying he was worried that they were trying to intimidate him and “interfere with and influence the MPD, including the MPD’s internal and external investigations and actions.”

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has recused herself from the probe into corruption claims against elected Miami officials that were made last year by Acevedo, documents obtained Tuesday by Local 10 News show.

The governor then turned over the “executive assignment” to Broward State Attorney Harold Pryor on Dec. 17.

Acevedo’s rocky tenure ended when Noriega recommended his termination in October and the city commission voted to follow through with that action.

He garnered support from advocates of police reform in his brief time in Miami despite his clash with commissioners and other city leaders.

Acevedo has since joined CNN as a law enforcement analyst.