By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
José F. Gonzalez spent twenty years as a cop for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools,where he rose through the ranks to become assistant chief of the 180-officer department. Until recently he was poised to be a contender for the top spot. But Gonzalez's career as a police officer -- here or anywhere else -- ended forever in a plea deal with the State Attorney's Office. The March agreement marked an unsatisfactory end to a protracted criminal investigation that began, Gonzalez believes, when he refused to commit illegal or unethical acts at the behest of his boss and the number-two man at the school district, deputy superintendent Henry Fraind.
The plea, in which Gonzalez traded his job and any future prospects as a police officer for an end to the investigation, was unsatisfactory for a couple of reasons. It failed to clear up lingering questions about just how deeply he was involved in an alleged 1987 plot to kill a witness associated with the notorious Miami River Cops case. It also preempted any possibility that courtroom questioning might have cast light on the shadowy activities of the school district's top administrators.
But the wily "Pepe" Gonzalez did not go down without landing a couple of well-placed punches at his bosses. On September 10, 1999, Gonzalez provided a lengthy sworn statement to assistant school board attorney Patricia Bass and district financial auditor Julio Miranda, in which he detailed various abuses of power allegedly committed by Fraind and Vivian Monroe, who was school district police chief at the time. A transcript of the sworn statement became part of the State Attorney's case file on Gonzalez. When the case ended with the plea agreement, that document became a public record.
While self-preservation and a desire to retaliate were obvious motives in his decision to reveal this information, Gonzalez's claims were backed by extensive records he kept, including notes, invoices, memos, letters, phone logs, and the names of people who could corroborate portions of his testimony.
With those caveats in mind, the 107-page document excerpted below offers an intriguing look inside the school district. Gonzalez's testimony, though nearly two years old, could take on new relevance as a reconfigured school board considers the fate of superintendent Roger Cuevas. (The recent election of Frank Cobo to the board, plus the governor's imminent appointment of another new member, could shift the balance of power.) New Times does not vouch for the veracity of Gonzalez's statements.
It started with a storm. In late September 1998, the school district prepared for the worst as Hurricane Georges flirted with a landing in South Florida. Gonzalez was instructed to chauffeur Henry Fraind around the county to monitor preparations at various schools. The timing was significant because oversight of the police department was about to be transferred to Fraind from another deputy superintendent.
That's when Fraind took note of the equipment in Gonzalez's police car -- the radio, the emergency lights, the siren. He asked Gonzalez if he could have similar equipment installed in his district-owned car, now that he would be supervising the department. According to Gonzalez's sworn statement, Fraind also mentioned that he wanted to carry a police badge and his personal 9mm handgun. Gonzalez said he advised Fraind that he would have to be a certified law-enforcement officer to use these items. That, apparently, was not the answer Fraind wanted to hear.
Gonzalez: "At this time he replied, “If I'm going to run this' -- excuse my French here -- “fucking police department, I want everything you fucking guys have. How do you expect for me to get any respect from the troops? Fuck it. If the chief has a problem with it, she's going to have a problem with me. Why do you think I am being given the department? Because the whole place is a fucking mess. By the way, I hope you will be part of my team, because I can't stand that fucking, incompetent bitch of your chief and assistant chief. All we hear is that the whole place is a fucking mess and that the unit is always complaining. Well, I will tell you that -- I can't promise you nothing, and I know you're a good guy, but heads are going to roll. Eddie Pearson says that all personnel investigations are screwed up, and there is always delays and [assistant chief Charles] Martin can't get the job done.'"
Gonzalez then detailed his fruitless efforts to convince Fraind he could not lawfully use the police equipment. Nonetheless a few days later, on October 9, Fraind had sirens and other equipment installed in his district-issued vehicle by Metro U.S.A., the same vendor used by the school district's police department. The money came from Fraind's office account.
Over the next several days Fraind bought a police uniform, including tactical boots, a belt, a badge clip, a gun holster, and a police radio. Gonzalez said Fraind also procured a gun and revolving police lights, but sent those items to department inventory without using them. Gonzalez provided the receipts and invoices from these transactions. (The Miami Herald later documented Fraind's purchase of police gear.)