Under Fire

She says he ordered her to sue a local resident, and then fired her. He says that's a lie. Being Key Biscayne police chief isn't the hassle-free job Michael Flaherty thought it would be.

She adds, "I won't deny it. I'd lay down in my patrol car, or in a chair in the women's bathroom. We were told we could do it. The only one who stayed awake the entire shift was the dispatcher."

As part of her research for the lawsuit, attorney Valdes made a public-records request for a taped conversation that took place on October 28, 2000, between Lt. Neil Rubin (Rojas's supervisor at the time) and dispatcher Arlene Sorensen. An excerpt from that conversation:

"Key Biscayne Police Department, Sorensen.

"Hi, Arlene, it's me.

"Hi, Neil!

"Can you do me a favor? I need a memo, from me to Cathy. Just put down “subject information.'

"Okay.

"And do me a favor, write it, stick it in my box. Don't show it to anybody.

"Okay."

Rubin goes on to dictate the memo: "Between April of 1999 and April 2000 I was the midnight-shift lieutenant. At no time -- do you remember me bringing in a group meeting and telling everybody they could legally sleep?"

After no response from Sorensen, Rubin continues: "Did I ever tell you you could bring in a sleeping bag and go to sleep?

"No.

"Heh. It's unbelievable. I'm so upset over this I can't tell you. You know what she said, Jackie? She said I gave permission they could sleep.... Basically all I'm asking you is did I tell you you could sleep? No, you didn't sleep anyway, heh, heh, heh. You're the only one who stays awake.

"Yeah." (Deputy Chief Cathy McElhaney says Rubin cannot comment on Rojas's assertion because the matter currently is the subject of an internal-affairs investigation.)


Rojas is now cordial, if not friendly, with her former nemesis Curtin. They share a common enemy in the chief. And Rojas, confident that the evidence she has gathered exonerates her, is still keen on law-enforcement work. "My intent is to walk back into Key Biscayne in full uniform," she declares.

But in Key Biscayne it's business as usual. At the last village meeting, for instance, Councilwoman Martha Broucek wanted to bring up complaints about how the police are treating minors arrested for vandalism and graffiti. Councilman Scott Bass interjected quickly, accusing his colleague of "badgering" the chief. Flaherty sat impassively, watching from the audience. No mention was made of Rojas's suit, her claims about the chief, or his allegedly well-rested officers.

After all, on Key Biscayne they like to accentuate the positive. As Councilman Robert Oldakowski pointed out after the meeting: "We've got a lot of good stuff going on out here. If you want to write about that, I'd be happy to spend a lot of time with you."

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