Lonely at the Top

The chief defends his move as an administrative necessity because he didn't have anybody in the department with the computer and communications expertise of Zaworski or the affirmative-action experience of Frame. "I had people in place that had no expertise and I had no expertise in the department for those positions," he says firmly. "It may

have smacked of [cronyism], but under the Florida system, I could have replaced the entire command staff with outside people."

The upper-level shakeup also included the promotion of four lieutenants -- Don De Lucca, Nicholas Lluy, Vincent Mulshine, and Patricia Schneider -- to captains, and the promotion of one captain -- Rocco De Leo -- to major. In turn, Huber demoted or transferred four veteran officers who had been among Glassman's lame-duck promotions. Captains Steven Robbins and Casey Conwell were demoted to lieutenant, and Major Alan Solowitz and Captain Richard Barreto were transferred to less coveted positions. In a final related administrative shift, Huber transferred police legal adviser Dennis Ward -- a friend of Barreto, Solowitz, and Glassman -- from the police department to the city attorney's office.

Huber denies he's trying to purge the system of Glassman allies. "I've dealt with the debris of the previous administration for some time," Huber says testily. "What I'm doing is holding everyone accountable. There are no more godfathers in the department."

Huber's forceful reorganization has had the support of the police union, still smarting over the former chief's parting shot. "Glassman's promotions were strictly made by loyalty and not by qualifications," says FOP president Veski. "These were young men who would lock up the department for the next ten years and determine the direction of the department."

However, the managerial shuffling has engendered three complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and bitterness among officers in the upper echelons of the department. The complaints have been filed by Robbins, Barreto, and retired Captain Paul Rantanen, another recipient of one of Glassman's last-minute promotions.

Robbins, a sixteen-year veteran, says he was demoted from captain to lieutenant because he is Jewish. "I began to see a trend with the chief that was disturbing," says Robbins, recalling what motivated him to file the EEOC complaint. "I was with him when he made racial epithets regarding Jews and blacks. Once he yelled at me for scheduling a rabbi at a police ceremony. And once he told me that he was going to institute a new policy that would prohibit my Chai [a Jewish amulet signifying life]."

Barreto charges in his complaint that he was passed over for promotion three times because of his Cuban heritage. After he told the chief he was planning to file the EEOC complaint, Barreto says, Huber removed him as commander of the SWAT team, as head of an anti-crime task force, as head of the police charity fund, and transferred him.

And Rantanen, who retired this summer as the department's most senior captain after a twenty-year career, has filed a reverse-discrimination complaint. He says he was not promoted because he was not a minority, and claims he was forced to retire because the chief was threatening to demote him.

Huber denies the EEOC charges, and Robbins' racism allegations, and says he welcomes an investigation into the complaints. "I can tell you the individual allegations are ludicrous," he says, "but I won't argue out their careers in the paper. Most of this is because of egos, not because of organizational structure."

Despite the resentment among several command staffers and their supporters in the rank and file, City Manager Talarico praises the chief for his makeover of the department. "The police chief came into a situation that was not the best of worlds and he's taken the bull by the horns," she says. "He has made some decisions that have shaken up a department that needed some shaking." But while commending Huber for putting a cattle prod to a lethargic department, Talarico scolds him for lacking managerial finesse in his latest round of personnel switches. "We could've talked about it, but he came to me afterwards and told me about the changes," Talarico recalls. "Does that mean it's retaliation? No, but the perception is not good."

Former City Manager Rob Parkins also questions the radical changes Huber has instituted in the Miami Beach Police department's command staff. "I thought he was going to keep things level during the first year-and-a-half to two years," Parkins says, choosing his words carefully. "But I'm somewhat surprised that he has made some dramatic shifts."

Huber's most virulent critics aren't so diplomatic in their evaluations of his management style. Says one commander: "He's summarily executing people. It's a takeover." Another, commenting on the rapid changes at one detective bureau post, says: "Four bosses in a year-and-a-half? That's like the country having four presidents. These aren't plumbers, these are guys who make delicate decisions and there needs to be a lot

of stability."
In recent weeks, several disgruntled members of the department have been spreading rumors about Huber's abuse of his position: financial wrongdoings, numerous violations of departmental rules, and an indulgence in luxuries not appropriate for the chief of police. Detractors have contacted local news organizations and sent an anonymous letter to State Attorney Janet Reno alleging Huber's physical and verbal abuse of a man who broke into his house. (The State Attorney's Office conducted an investigation into the allegation, but closed the case after the suspect said "he had no complaints," according to the investigation report.) Many Miami Beach officials and outside observers of the department have heard and witnessed this sniper fire. Like the proliferation of jokes after a large-scale public disaster, everyone seems to have at least one or two good Huber allegations.

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