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Would conducting such an audit have helped confirm Simmons's claims? "I suppose so," Joe Centorino observes. "But then again, the absence of something doesn't prove anything." The prosecutor adds that he has no second thoughts about his handling of the case: "The complaint came from an officer and we took it seriously. If anything, we spent too much time on it. There may have been administrative problems in that office, but there was no way we could prove a criminal case."
Given his passion for investigation, it is hardly surprising that Simmons should object to being stuck back on patrol. What is surprising is the manner in which the dispute was addressed.
Within days of his transfer Simmons filed a grievance alleging that he had not been given sufficient notice of his transfer, and that it had been ordered in lieu of discipline and also in retaliation for the internal affairs complaint he had lodged against Prieto. He requested that he be reassigned to an investigative unit.
For several weeks, the complaint made its way up the chain of command. When it arrived on the desk of John Farrell, Prieto's supervisor, the chief denied the grievance, asserting that Simmons had indeed been notified of the transfer more than fifteen days in advance.
"The primary issue outlined in the formal grievance remains unresolved," Simmons wrote back. "Specifically, the adverse action taken against [me] for reporting official misconduct to the proper authority." Following Metro's grievance procedure, Simmons requested a meeting with the police department's director, Fred Taylor. To judge from documents entered into evidence at the arbitration that followed, little was accomplished during that meeting. Taylor arranged for Simmons to be offered a position in the Economic Crimes Bureau, but the post was to be temporary, and primarily administrative. Simmons turned it down. "Since you have declined this position, there appears no further action the Department can take at this point to resolve your grievance," Taylor concluded.
The case went to arbitration in January. Carol Anderson, the assistant county attorney who represented Metro-Dade, attempted to portray Simmons as a renegade officer who had previously run afoul of his superiors. Her case, however, hinged on a single assertion: Simmons had expressed opinions to the media that Prieto found unacceptable.
Yet when he was called to testify, Prieto couldn't provide any examples of objectionable statements. Further, he insisted he had called the head of sexual battery to see if Simmons could be transferred there; when that officer was interviewed, she said she'd never heard from Prieto. He also asserted that he had not been the subject of an internal affairs complaint since 1973, apparently forgetting the 1982 cheating allegation.
Prieto's rationale for reassigning Simmons was also somewhat clouded, and implied a violation of Metro's rules regarding transfers, which are to be ordered "for reasons that will improve effectiveness and efficiency of the department," but not "in lieu of discipline," according to the police department's employment contract with the county. "It is my nature to talk to people rather than give discipline away," Prieto explained. "If I can talk to people and understand and make people understand, I thought it was for the benefit of the department. The transfer was much better than discipline."
Anderson characterizes the case in a similar manner. "Prieto was concerned that Simmons was trying to become a media star," she explains. "He felt Simmons was not operating the way he wanted the bureau to operate. Simmons had been following a similar course of calling his own shots for a number of years. The command staff felt he should go back to uniform. It was reviewed with Chief Farrell, and went all the way to Director Taylor. They felt it was best for Simmons to stay in uniform.
"At some point, he was offered a position as an administrative sergeant and he didn't want that. He wanted to be a detective-supervisor-type sergeant. That was even more offensive to the command staff," Anderson adds. "People aren't expected to pick and choose what kind of job they want. Simmons wouldn't accept the offer, and the department was not about to give him a detective-sergeant position."
In other words, it seems to have been decided that Simmons needed to be taught a lesson. Whether that lesson sticks is up to arbitrator Edward A. Pereles, who is expected to issue his ruling this week.
Antonio Prieto is still a bureau commander, though the Juvenile Investigations Bureau has been reorganized. The gang and child-exploitation units have been shuttled to the newly created Domestic Crimes Bureau. Juvenile Investigations now consists of missing persons and a recently formed habitual offender unit. Staffing has been cut in half.
Whatever Pereles rules, the Simmons saga remains draped in irony. "It was a case of stubbornness costing us a lot of time and money," observes Assistant County Attorney Anderson. "And I think it would be most helpful to have the public know this kind of thing goes on."