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
"Adonis is politically savvy and powerful," says city Commissioner Ed Tobin. But he is also, Tobin adds, one of the reasons the department has "been flushed down the toilet."
Garcia defends his record, and Otero sticks up for his employee. "I know there have been several accusations about Adonis... but they have been properly looked into and investigated," Otero says.
Garcia, like Gonzalez a Key West native, joined the department in 1994. Ten years later, on August 1, 2004, the then-38-year-old firefighter was at the popular South Beach nightclub Mynt when he got into an argument with Santiago Contreras. Garcia slugged the businessman in the mouth, leaving a gash that required seven stitches, according to a police report. Garcia was arrested, but the charges were dropped days later.
Four months later, Garcia was busted again, in Monroe County. This time, he was accused of assaulting a law enforcement officer. Yet those charges were dropped six months later.
Finally, there was Garcia's arrest August 23, 2005, for allegedly brandishing a gun at Moros. The trainer had recently married Sabrina Moore, Garcia's ex-wife. The two men even looked alike: dark-haired, handsome, and ripped. Garcia disputes the claim. "I would never do that," he says. "I don't even own a gun. Obviously, nothing really happened."
The assault charge was quashed.
Eventually, though, Garcia's problems caught up with him at work. On February 3, 2007, the firefighter was hired as a paramedic for a Volleypalooza tournament on the beach at Eighth Street. Garcia misrepresented himself as the "fire marshal," according to a letter that event organizer Lana Bernstein sent to the city's special events coordinator. Instead of working, Garcia got busy "bringing his guests onto [the] event stage." When staff asked him to stop, he demanded that the event be shut down. Garcia seemed "pumped up" and "hard-line," Bernstein wrote.
The next night, he again "was bullying and assaulting [the] staff," the organizer wrote. Finally, Bernstein claimed, "Garcia was seen in the party acting as a guest and enjoying himself, as opposed to supervising and assisting any city staff."
Garcia says the event got "out of control" and he had to forcefully intervene, but calls the other allegations "absolutely false."
Garcia has also been accused of defrauding the tax system. This past December, Miami-Dade County filed a lien against his house after determining he'd claimed $76,000 in homestead exemptions on his $600,000 Normandy Shores Golf Course Club property despite renting it out and living in a SoBe condo.
The firefighter says he was "shocked" at the penalty. He admits he doesn't live at the Normandy Shores home but says the lien is a misunderstanding he's working to fix.
Garcia certainly isn't short of cash. As union president and department spokesman — jobs that make him the face of MBFR everywhere from MTV segments to local TV reports — he pulls in significantly more than his $95,000 annual base salary (plus tens of thousands of dollars in benefits). It's unclear exactly how much Garcia really makes. He declined to say.
As union chief, he helped engineer last year's $60 million pension bill — a deal that paid him handsomely. On September 1, the then-second-level firefighter was promoted to lieutenant, receiving a $4,200 raise in yearly salary. Less than a month later, he was promoted to captain, receiving another $4,600 pay bump. When he retires, the deal guarantees he'll receive at least 65 percent of his salary as pension for the rest of his life.
He was one of six firefighters to get a double-jump when the city signed a new contract, which critics, such as Commissioner Tobin, say will cost the city millions in the long run in new pension obligations. "The presentation of the [contract] was designed to fool some commissioners and the public into thinking this was paid for," Tobin says.
Otero and Garcia have also been criticized for the culture of their department, as multiple complaints of sexual and racial harassment have arisen.
Last year, an African-American fire recruit named Brian Gentles claimed to New Times that a white colleague repeatedly called him "nigger" and put his testicles on Gentles's face. Gentles had met with Otero in December 2011 to discuss the alleged abuse. The then-assistant fire chief acknowledged that several other recruits confirmed the complaints, Gentles says. But when Gentles began to give a recorded statement a few days later, Garcia allegedly stopped the tape, took him outside the room, and told him not to "snitch" or he would be fired.
Indeed, Gentles was eventually axed. He filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and eventually accepted a $100,000 settlement to return to the department as a fire inspector. (A city investigation, meanwhile, determined his claims were "not credible.")
"It seems like it's the Wild Wild West," Gentles says of the department. "You can do whatever you want — the taxpayers are just going to pick up the tab. Be racist, be sexist, no one is going to say anything."
Marlenis Smart echoes that sentiment. Smart says she was sexually harassed from her first day on the job as a firefighter in 2005. In her suit, she claimed male firefighters told her "women belong in the kitchen," accused her of being a slut, and walked in on her in the shower. Smart, who is married with four children, says Otero once even called her "promiscuous." One time, her underwear was stolen from her locker. When she found it, it was covered in semen, she says. Her bra was hung from the rafters.
jose smith the city attorney has been the the longest and perhaps he is the corruption problem in miami beach.
Take a look at the New MB Risk Manager from MDC omg she worked with Risk Mgr. Miguel Solomon who fired for setting up fake insurance claims. Now MB has this adjuster from MDC to help City Atty Jose Smith settle cases with out anyone looking at anything.. Super Job HR dept, and the want to be City Manager Kathie Brooks... Is anyone paying attention to what they are doing???Hello Inspector General all the dirt is buried in the Risk Mgt Dept and the City Attorneys Office. Oh I forgot that is not open to Public Records...
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