Flunk Out

Dade County's school district may have its own police department, but law enforcement experts say it doesn't come close to making the grade

In October 1996 a district auditor examining payroll records at Norland Middle School discovered that a former secretary at that school, Suzanne Glasse, had submitted a check-request form featuring a payroll clerk's signature that appeared to be forged, according to a February 1997 police incident report obtained by New Times. The requested pay was for computer-graphics work Glasse had done outside regular school hours. Had the auditor not questioned the authenticity of the signature, Glasse would have been paid for 40 hours of work that police described as unauthorized.

The auditor notified his boss, assistant superintendent George Balsa, who heads the district's Office of Management Audits. Balsa contacted school police Sgt. John Hunkiar, who interviewed Glasse late this past January. According to the sergeant's subsequent report, Glasse admitted she had signed the document using the payroll clerk's name and attempted to make the signature look authentic. But she also told auditors and police that the payroll clerk had given permission to sign her name to the document. The clerk, she asserted, later turned against her.

It was not the first time Suzanne Glasse had been investigated by school police. In 1994, when she herself was a payroll clerk, police substantiated charges that Glasse had used improper procedures to provide another school district employee with an unauthorized paycheck. According to school police reports, Glasse received no money in that case, and investigators found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

This time, however, Sergeant Hunkiar was concerned enough that he contacted Assistant State Attorney David Maer. As noted in Hunkiar's report, the prosecutor concluded that the evidence was strong enough to support a criminal charge. The sergeant then met with George Balsa and Julio Miranda, the district's forensic auditor, and they agreed to charge Glasse with forgery.

By this time Glasse had moved up in the school district hierarchy. She no longer worked at Norland Middle School; now she was an administrative secretary for Joyce Annunziata, the senior executive director of the Office of Professional Standards. As a courtesy, Hunkiar called Annunziata and said Glasse could surrender at a location of her choice rather than suffer the embarrassment of being escorted from work in handcuffs.

Annunziata promptly informed her supervisor, Nelson Diaz, deputy superintendent for labor relations and personnel management, who in turn called Balsa to discuss the case. Balsa and Miranda met again and then contacted David Maer at the State Attorney's Office.

Now they told the prosecutor they had doubts that their evidence against Glasse would stand up in court. Apparently Maer was persuaded. Reports show that he subsequently told Sergeant Hunkiar that Glasse should not be arrested and that the case should be handled administratively.

Nelson Diaz, who has no official authority over the school district's police department, arrived at a staff meeting several days later and excoriated high-ranking police officers for allowing Hunkiar to proceed with the case. Deputy superintendent Carol Cortes, who does oversee the police, listened as Diaz upbraided her subordinates. Diaz recalls his words: "I said, 'I don't think that you can arrest someone when the State Attorney's Office has said there's nothing here to make an arrest.'"

Despite the turnaround regarding criminal charges, Glasse's supervisors believed some form of punishment was called for, and so they officially "demoted" her. Before her demotion, she was earning $25,836, according to personnel records. But after the demotion, her annual pay actually rose to $26,083. The official report describing Glasse's case, which would be considered a public document at other police agencies, was withheld from New Times by school district officials who claim it will be part of her annual job performance evaluation and is therefore confidential.

On October 8 of last year, a fourteen-year-old girl told her principal at Miami Edison Middle School that a teacher, Jean Baptiste Guerrier, had physically restrained her between classes, told her she was pretty, asked to meet her later, rubbed her leg, and fondled her breast.

Instead of calling police, school authorities relayed the allegation to the district's Office of Professional Standards (OPS). Officials at OPS chose not to approach the case as a criminal matter but rather as an administrative issue, according to an OPS report. Edison principal Ronald Major questioned the girl and had her write out a statement describing the alleged incident.

When two days passed and no one had contacted her, the girl's mother reported the incident directly to school police Capt. Joseph Diaz. The allegation then went to a subordinate officer, who called the sexual battery unit of the City of Miami Police Department. Det. George Martinez was assigned to the case.

As Martinez later wrote in his investigative report and testified during a sworn deposition, he had already looked into 1993 allegations of "sexual misconduct" against Guerrier. The State Attorney's Office did not press charges in that case. Martinez also learned that Guerrier had been investigated by school district staff in 1990, again for "misconduct involving sexual activities."

As soon as he was assigned the case, Martinez called school district police and asked them to bring the girl to his office immediately. By the time she got there -- October 11 -- the student was so hostile she turned her back on the detective and refused to talk. "She said she felt uncomfortable," Martinez recalls. "She said that nobody believed her, that the investigation was a waste of time, and that the system protects people." Eventually, though, Martinez and the girl developed enough rapport that she provided him with her account of the events of October 8.

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