When the Flak Flies, the Flack Flees

How's the search for a new Miami Beach police public information officer going? No comment!

Animosity notwithstanding, the department had to find a new PIO. Though Boza has continued to perform the chores and will do so until a civilian replacement is found, the hiring of a civilian PIO at a salary of $35,000 per year was included in the city's 1997-98 budget. Pinon, who oversees the police department, says he got several calls and resumes but that Sullivan's credentials made him the clear front-runner.

Then came the background check, a requirement for any police hire. On October 7 Det. Gerard Mackey commenced his investigation of Sullivan, scrutinizing files from the City of Miami, soliciting letters from and interviewing people who know him, and undertaking the arduous journey through the roomful of documents relating to the San Pedro case in storage at the FBI's local offices.

When Mackey compared his findings to the personal-history questionnaire Sullivan had filled out, he found several discrepancies. For instance, while Sullivan stated that he'd never been the subject of a police investigation, Mackey discovered that both the Miami Police Department's internal affairs unit and Metro-Dade's Organized Crime Bureau had opened probes into his involvement with San Pedro. Also, Sullivan had told Mackey that the San Pedro matter had not led to his being relieved of duty, but the investigator learned from an interoffice memo that Sullivan had been relieved of duty on March 24, 1986, "pending an internal security investigation." Sullivan further told Mackey that he had spoken to San Pedro only in his capacity as PIO, but his personnel file clearly showed that he had been transferred from the Public Information Office to uniform patrol on November 10, 1985 -- before any of his documented conversations with San Pedro took place.

Yet another inconsistency: Sullivan told Mackey that he hadn't applied for a police job since his retirement. In fact, he put in his name for civilian PIO with the Hollywood Police Department in 1988. And although the police chief in Hollywood at the time was his friend Richard Witt (a former Miami police officer who is now chief of police in Golden Beach), Sullivan didn't get the job. Witt says today that the San Pedro case might have been a factor in that decision, but he also recalls that "[Sullivan] did not do well in the interview process."

These problems were enough for Barreto, who signed Mackey's report with the recommendation "Do Not Hire."

That was on October 23. But Garcia-Pedrosa never got around to making a final decision on the recommendation. When Sullivan withdrew his name from consideration on October 31, he was still officially a candidate for the job.

Both Sullivan and Pinon insist union pressure goaded Mackey to dig deeper than he might have ordinarily. In reference to the discrepancies, Sullivan says he didn't note Hollywood as a police-agency application because the position was civilian. He adds that regardless of whether he was a PIO at the time, all his meetings with San Pedro were directly related to his job.

"They were looking for reasons not to hire me," he insists. "It's all innuendo, it's all political fallout. I got into the middle of a pissing contest."

Scoffs Pinon, noting Sullivan's past membership in the FOP's hierarchy: "I have no clue why the FOP did this. Everybody investigated the San Pedro case, and if there had been any violation of the law, Sullivan would have been charged. These were minor inconsistencies. This background check became a federal investigation, figuratively, after the FOP jumped in."

Mackey maintains that his scrutiny of Sullivan was no more or less diligent than it would have been for any applicant.

With Sullivan out of the picture, the search for Al Boza's replacement has slowed considerably. Pinon and Barreto met last week to discuss their options, which include advertising for the position. Of course, this all comes during a period of transition to a new mayor and city commission, which augurs possible significant changes within the administration.

The previous applicant has a word of warning for other potential aspirants. "Until the problems with the political process are straightened out, no matter who comes in as a civilian, they're going to have trouble with the FOP," Sullivan proclaims.

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