If the Suits Fit

The mayor of Hialeah Gardens has a taste for vulgarity, revenge -- and for costing the city big bucks in legal fees

Pepe Herrera, then the city attorney, says now he thought it was a mistake appointing Joy to that position while his certificate was still on probation. He shared that opinion both with Joy and Oliveros. "I told Keith, 'This is the wrong thing for you. It's not smart,'" he says.

The little city with a chief who has a criminal record keeps piling up litigation by cops, which has not escaped the notice of the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) president John Rivera. The influential union head can't help but express his frustration with the slew of officer complaints and lawsuits from the tiny department.

"Every time the PBA calls up there, we get stonewalled, and my guys suffer from it," he sighs. "We'll try to fix it the nice way first, but we're getting ready to punch them in the nose with some grievances. The city's playing games with the contract, and engaging in retribution and punishment."

Aww, yeah: Police Chief Joy receives the adulation of Mayor Oliveros (standing) along with councilwomen Lucy Valdes (left) and Fatima Morejon in an outtake from the photo shoot for the city's holiday-greeting-card (following page)
Aww, yeah: Police Chief Joy receives the adulation of Mayor Oliveros (standing) along with councilwomen Lucy Valdes (left) and Fatima Morejon in an outtake from the photo shoot for the city's holiday-greeting-card (following page)

When he tries to resolve some of these matters in conversations with Oliveros and Joy, Rivera says he encounters "a lot of finger-pointing." The mayor blames the attorneys, who blame the chief, who blames the attorneys. But Rivera knows where the ultimate responsibility lies. "This is a mayor who [the PBA] supported, and overall she's not a bad person, but it seems like there's a fuse burnt out in her head."

The eventual outcome of the pending litigation against the city cannot be predicted. Neither Tony Sanchez nor his attorney, Miami's Cristina Saenz, would comment on his case for this story. Saenz also is representing former city staffers Robert Godwin and Nattacha Amador, and did confirm that she will be filing lawsuits based on their employment-discrimination and harassment charges.

As for the voter-registration fraud and campaign-finance violations Godwin has alleged, state and county authorities already are on the case. Ivy Korman, the chief vote-fraud investigator with the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections, has looked into Godwin's moves in and out of Hialeah Gardens, flagged the pattern as suspicious, and "passed that information along," she says. She won't say to what agency, but Godwin confirms that Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents visited him in mid-August.

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