By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
Yes, he says, he did inform McDade that county law requires he walk his dogs on a leash. But he did not ban McDade's dogs from walking in the village. True, one of his officers did tell McDade not to walk his dogs in the park at NE 114th Street and Ninth Avenue, where the Ed Burke Recreation Center is located. The park is off-limits to pets. "McDade stretched that to mean he couldn't walk the dogs anywhere in Biscayne Park. But I didn't tell him that. No one did. And he never bothered to clarify the situation with me."
Gotlin sighs deeply. "Of course it bothers me," the chief says of McDade's years-long efforts to get him fired. "But being in a position of authority, I'm used to having a bull's-eye on my back."
But McDade won't budge from his position. "The chief is lying!" he says, his voice rising with agitation. "I'll take truth serum! And I defy him to do the same thing!" He's so sure he'll be arrested if he walks his dogs within the village limits that he drives them miles away, to locations far from the eyes of Biscayne Park's finest.
McDade won't walk his dogs in Biscayne Park, he swears, until Gotlin is off the force. He tried to facilitate the chief's removal but failed in January 2004, when two of the commissioners McDade helped win election to the Biscayne Park Village Commission refused to deliver on promises to fire Gotlin. Since then, McDade laments, his best friend has betrayed him, the cops have falsely arrested him, and he has been slandered as a wife- and cop-beater in a series of events meant to discredit him among Biscayne Park property owners. Worst of all, two of his five dogs have died as a result of their exile. "My only concern now is beating the charges," he says. "If I do, I'm coming back to finish the job."
In the summer of 2003, Roy McDade -- still smarting every time he had to drive his dogs outside of Biscayne Park for their daily walks -- seized on an opportunity he thought would pave the way toward Gotlin's ouster. Several dozen other homeowners had grown disaffected with the five-member Biscayne Park Village Commission. Residents were upset with the village's aggressive code enforcement, wasteful spending, and lack of police presence on the streets. (Under the Biscayne Park charter, one commissioner is designated the ceremonial mayor while the others oversee four departments -- administration, police, public works, and recreation).
McDade and three other residents created the Village of Biscayne Park Homeowners Committee, which ran a five-candidate slate against three incumbent village commissioners in the Biscayne Park municipal elections December 2, 2003. Because the three candidates to receive the most votes would win commission seats, the committee was looking to stack the deck a bit in a field of eight.
McDade rallied neighbors and raised money for the slate, and on weekends the committee would hold packed meetings at the nearby Church of the Resurrection, where the group's candidates discussed their platform. In addition to promises of eliminating wasteful spending and increasing local police presence, they vowed to fire not only Chief Gotlin but also Sira Ramos, who ran the village's code enforcement. Ramos, who had prior experience working with the village's first code enforcement officer, was hired in 1999, at the recommendation of Chief Gotlin, and had since become the most reviled person in Biscayne Park, says Ronald Coyle, one of the committee's candidates. "She handed out something like 2800 code citations during the four-year period before we got elected," Coyle says. "People were angry." But more than that, he says, her hiring was a quid pro quo; she had lobbied the village commission to appoint Gotlin to his current position.
Throughout the campaign, Coyle recalls, McDade worked with one purpose: to get rid of Gotlin. "We all knew Roy's story with his dogs and the chief," he says. "I believe it. I know so many people who've been treated wrongfully by the police. Heck, I have firsthand experience." According to Miami-Dade criminal court records, Coyle was arrested by Biscayne Park Police in 1994 on a misdemeanor assault charge. The case was dismissed for lack of evidence. In 1997, Biscayne Park Police arrested him again, this time on a felony assault charge. Prosecutors dropped that case before going to trial.
Coyle ran with other committee-supported candidates Rose De Merle, Judi Hamelburg, John Hornbuckle, and Ted Walker, McDade's best friend and next-door neighbor. Three of them -- Coyle, Hornbuckle, and Walker -- defeated incumbents Richard Ederr, Joe Lomazzo, and Michael Lynott. McDade became "the motor behind the machine that got us all elected," says Coyle. "Roy did everything, from calling the meetings to soliciting money for the campaign."
But a funny thing happened in the weeks after the election. Ted Walker, the last man McDade expected to turn on him, had a change of heart. Right up until Election Day, Coyle says, Walker was determined to fire the chief. Then, on January 6, 2004, the eve of the new commission's installation ceremony, Chief Gotlin met privately with the three newcomers and begged for his job.