By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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By Kyle Swenson
LeBrun did not leave the City Beautiful empty-handed. He was granted a pension of about $50,000 per year. Apparently unable to quench his thirst for municipal administration, he arrived in Indian Creek Village a year later.
Once again under fire, LeBrun's principal response to the investigative report has been to ply a kind of half-hearted damage control. "I wouldn't say our police department is out of control," he remarks. "There are areas of concern that need to be looked at, yes. But I'm not going to take every line of that report as gospel."
Ronny Kay can tell you that. The same week the report was released, he received a letter from the village manager accusing him of "disrupting the efficient operation of the police department" and "filing false allegations with the State Attorney's Office against Chief Piedra and myself." The letter also announced a hearing date, at which time LeBrun would decide whether to fire Kay for these transgressions. The manager has taken no action against Cerda or Piedra, noting that he will wait until the council meets again, on March 22.
LeBrun's actions have left North Miami Beach Police Chief Bill Berger bemused. "I'm sure this is very embarrassing for the village," he says, "but the responsibility to take action falls to the manager. And let me tell you something: I didn't just walk in there and drop that report on his desk. I had many discussions with LeBrun throughout this investigation. I kept him abreast of the entire thing from day one. Unfortunately, sometimes people don't want to hear the truth."
In that, LeBrun is hardly alone.
Aside from a flash of discord at the last council meeting, there has been no voice of outrage in Indian Creek. To be sure, the report A or rumors about it A have made the rounds. But most villagers, whose contact with police officers consists of passing them at the gate and slipping them holiday bonuses, have remained mum. Better to limit the fallout. If nobody is talking about it, it's not a scandal.
Indeed, that might serve as a fitting epitaph for a community long accustomed to squirreling away its secrets.
There is the much-whispered-about story, for example, of a former police chief called Captain Pat. An unusually robust woman with a yen for deep-sea fishing, Pat was the daughter of a typical Indian Creek couple. Mother drove around the island in a golf cart, head wrapped in a black scarf. Father made millions.
Upon the death of her parents, Pat reportedly headed off somewhere A the speculation was Morocco A and returned to the island as a man. He supposedly spent the rest of his days on the island, a Hemingwayesque figure in a sailor's cap who, like the grizzled author, would eventually put a bullet through his head.
Whether this story is true or a product of the island's notorious rumor mill is not clear. But transsexual or no, Captain Pat was one heck of a cop, say those who remember him. "He used to roar all over the island in this big white Cadillac," recalls Jan Cowles, who built a home on the island in 1953. "If someone was speeding, he'd just pull them over and sort of tell them, 'Now, you know, we really don't do things like that around here, do we?' And he'd get them to the point where it was all very friendly and relaxed."
Cowles, heiress to the Look magazine fortune, remembers the village as a "a little bit of heaven" back then, a casual neighborhood where the aroma of a cookout signaled dusk, and no one bothered to lock doors or windows. She sees the current obsession with security A the fingerprint checks run on domestic help, the proposals to issue identity cards to servants A as a product of the age. "Too many people with too many guns," she sighs. Times change, even on Indian Creek.
"The style of the houses has changed, too," says Cowles. "We built comfortable, well-designed homes. Now you've got people coming in to capitalize on what was once upon a time a very quiet, refined place. Frankly, I don't know what Indian Creek is today."
Like other early settlers, Cowles clucks at the recent influx of highrollers, with their nouveau riche designs, though she admits selling her home to one of them. (German playboy Thomas Kramer paid $3.75 million this past April for her Bahamian mansion, and promptly razed the place.) "I suppose I'm the last of the Old Guard to leave," she says wistfully from her temporary home in New York City.
Her son Charlie, a New York art dealer, has also noticed the shift in attitude. "You'd think that place would be paradise. But everyone has their own idea of how to run the world now. They all want to march down to the little village hall and have their say. Everyone wants a different style streetlight, and the whole point is we don't need any streetlights!
"People fix on this stuff because they don't have anything else to do," he confides. "I remember a big controversy several years ago over who was going to be mayor, and it all came down to which way the [live-in] domestics were going to vote. They brought in a monitor all the way from Tallahassee to make sure all the servants were U.S. citizens. I myself walked in there to vote and they tried to disqualify me. They actually had copies of my voting record from New York sitting there."