By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
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
Anne McDougal, who was elected to the council last year by a one-vote margin, agrees with Cowles. "Because we're such a tiny island, everything tends to get magnified out of proportion."
The current police fiasco is a good example, she says. In fact, she can't imagine why a reporter would want to squander his time on such a trifle. Her fellow residents apparently agree. Mayor Ken Bagwell declined to comment on the matter. So too Maria Floyd, wife of golfer Raymond Floyd and something of a civic activist on the island.
The underlying problem in Indian Creek, as Berger's report stresses, is that residents don't really need a full police force. Because of a mutual-aid clause, officers from Metro-Dade and nearby Surfside can respond to the few calls that do occur on the island. The village crime rate is officially zero, and nearly all the significant crimes perpetrated have been "inside jobs," thefts committed by house servants or other help.
More to the point, according to many current and former officers, residents don't really want a police force. They want uniformed men who can assure them of security and privacy, while at the same time overlooking any misdemeanor they may commit. "In a way, Piedra is the perfect chief for that department, because he's a puppet," says one officer who quit the department but still fears reprisals. "Here's a guy who reprimands his own officers for enforcing the law. Who takes away ticket books. Who probably couldn't even fill out an arrest form. That's exactly what that village wants."
Berger's report recommends that villagers hire a private security firm to man the bridge. That's not likely to happen. "They want their little man in the blue uniform and hat who will wave at them," notes investigator Woods. "And they've got the money to pay for it.
"The real danger," Woods adds, "is that you're giving that little man in the blue uniform arrest power and a gun."
Tromping across the empty lot opposite the Indian Creek Village Hall A a lot that will soon be transformed into a Parisian garden by French millionaires A attorney James Crossland did not look happy. A gentleman of bearlike shape and temperament, Crossland was made especially grumpy on this otherwise sunny morning by the two figures he was now approaching, a reporter and photographer, who had shown up for Ronny Kay's March 4 evidentiary hearing. "This is a purely administrative matter. You're not allowed in," Crossland snapped, and stalked off.
The lawyer's discomfort with the press was understandable. He was the fellow, after all, who had recommended to the city that Bill Berger investigate the department. As labor attorney it was now his role to defend the village from the battery of civil suits likely to be filed in the wake of Berger's scathing report. As part and parcel of that duty, it was his job to defend Chief Piedra. And no amount of legal obfuscation could obscure the moral compromise of such a role.
Inside the village hall, the tape-recorded proceedings turned predictably juvenile, with Crossland at one point mocking Kay's attorney, Greg Ross, mimicking his Brooklyn accent.
Time and again Crossland tried to establish that the documents Kay had gathered about the chief were improperly obtained. But his inquisition took on a hollow tone, given that the village manager himself admitted asking Kay to do so.
After an hour, Crossland ran out of questions. Kay turned to LeBrun. "This could have been resolved," he said, sounding genuinely hurt. "It didn't have to get to the point where it's costing a fortune for all sides. Do you think a job like mine, for $26,000 or $27,000 a year, is worth this? Do you realize I've been sitting home for the last eight months as a prisoner in my own home? It's not worth it."
Kay, dressed in his outdated leisure suit, then left the room, climbed into his truck, and drove off the island. (Two weeks later, he would be allowed to return to work, joining Piedra and Cerda, who remain on duty.)
Crossland and LeBrun barricaded themselves inside the tiny Village Hall to mull their next move, locking out the beautiful sun, the green green grass, the marvelous homes, and those citizens who might have hoped to enter the village's only public building.