Lawbreakers Beware!

Cuba Affidavit Citizens' Auxiliary


TO: Supreme Commander, Cuba Affidavit Citizens' Auxiliary
FROM: Robert Andrew Powell, Sergeant at Arms
RE: Morale problems among the troops

Attached are volunteer Ofcr. R. Guerra's first reports from the field. Please read them carefully. I'm afraid the initial reception of our Cuba Affidavit Citizens' Auxiliary has been less -- how should I say this? -- sympathetic than we had hoped. This must be addressed promptly.

As the lead officer on CACA's "street enforcement unit," Officer Guerra set out to assist in compliance with the county's Cuba Ordinance. As you know, the 1996 law requires all entities doing business with the county to sign a "Cuba Affidavit." This piece of paper certifies that the entity -- and everyone the entity does business with -- is not actively trading with the communist island nation.

The U.S. Supreme Court's recent rejection of a Massachusetts law "seemed" to void the Cuba Ordinance. In the wake of the June ruling, Miami-Dade County Attorney Robert Ginsburg advised the county manager, mayor, and commissioners that the Cuba Ordinance can no longer be enforced. Local government, in his words, can't require submission of the Cuba Affidavit "as a condition of contracting with the county."

I employ the word seemed with deliberate sarcasm. While Mayor Penelas immediately declared the troublesome ordinance dead, the county technically continues to defend against an anti-ordinance lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. For its part the ACLU has not yet tried to use the Supreme Court's ruling as a legal wrecking ball to smash the local ordinance.

In other words the law remains on the books -- and yet the county insists it will not be enforced. At CACA we believe first and foremost in the rule of law. That's why we empowered Officer Guerra to enforce the ordinance at various high-traffic locations around Miami-Dade. Unfortunately I must report that his public-spirited labors have been met with contempt not only by misguided government officials but, I'm afraid, by the citizenry at large.

As committed as I remain to the CACA mission, we must recognize that Officer Guerra's limited time as an intern may be better spent fetching us lunchtime TropiChops from Pollo Tropical. Please review the reports and advise ASAP.

TIME: 1:15 P.M.
BADGE NO. 0001

NARRATIVE: After a brief sweep of the Main Library, where this officer was ejected for interrogating citizens checking out books, I made my way over to Government Center. As this officer approached the "people mover," I noticed passengers simply dropping quarters into the turnstiles, walking out to the waiting area, and subsequently boarding the trains. Are they doing business with Cuba? No one at the county attempted to find out. "I ain't enforcing nothing," said a county employee working the Metrorail information booth. She declined to state her name. "I never heard of it. All we do is sell passes. We don't know nothing about anything."

This officer paid his fare and stepped out onto the waiting area. The first subject questioned was Richard Rosenthal, an attorney.

“I work for the county,” Rosenthal replied when asked to sign the affidavit. “Trust me, the county doesn't do business with Cuba.”

This officer explained that his word was not good enough. He still needed to sign the affidavit in case he was doing any side deals with Castro, à la Mariano Faget.

“You shouldn't be misleading people into signing things they don't have to,” he snapped, pushing away my clipboard. He was very angry, very assertive, possibly trying to impress a female subject standing beside him.

TIME: 3:12 P.M.
BADGE NO. 0001

NARRATIVE:. As the site of the annual Royal Caribbean Classic, the golf course at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne is a high-profile destination. This officer deemed it important to ensure that the county-operated facility complies with existing law. I arrived during twilight teeoff and positioned myself at the starter's tent, near the driving range.

Immediately this officer encountered two male individuals, middle-age, both in khaki shorts and white polo shirts. One wore a red baseball cap. Again, both subjects declined to surrender their names. By paying $27 apiece for a round of golf, they were engaging in business with the county, and therefore needed to sign the Cuba Affidavit. I provided forms and writing instruments to each gentleman, but they refused to sign.

“I'm retired; I'm not from here,” protested the man in the hat as he posted his Titleist between the markers. “No hablo español is the best I do around here.” If the capped gentleman was joking, I found no amusement and told him so. At my insistence that subject respect the rule of law, he repeated that he was retired and that he, in his words, “don't do business with no one.”

“Look, we're on vacation,” stated the hatless member of the pair in a tone I must describe as belligerent. “I'm a low-key guy and we're on vacation and we are here simply to golf, okay, buddy?”

The officer did obtain signatures from a foursome of Canadians in town to attend a computer convention. One of them, Harry Chang of Toronto, signed the form, though he expressed confusion as to the utility of said affidavit. “Why do you not want them to trade?” subject Chang inquired of the embargo against importing or exporting Cuban goods.

“Sir, I don't write the laws, I just enforce them,” I replied.

“But that what's wrong,” subject insisted. “I know Cuba is communist, but China, Russia, and North Korea -- we are trying to open these countries up. Why not Cuba?”

Before I could respond to Chang's question, a course ranger skidded to a stop on the cart path adjacent to the tee. Informing this officer that I “can't talk about Cuba here,” she chauffeured me to the clubhouse. There a man who identified himself as Ross Todd verified that golfers at Crandon Park are not asked to sign the Cuba Affidavit before hitting the links. Before exiting the premises, I noted a sign in the clubhouse: “Miami-Dade County requires proof of residency to obtain resident rate, no exception.” This officer quietly snickered at this blatant example of selective enforcement.

BADGE NO. 0001

NARRATIVE: Now that kids are out of school with idle time on their hands, I deemed it necessary to inspect the Matheson Hammock lagoon to see if the swimmers at the county-operated park were compliant with the ordinance. I paid my $3.50 entrance fee, noting that I was not asked any questions about my business dealings with Cuba. My suspicion that no other drivers were questioned was confirmed when I landed on the beach.

“I didn't sign anything,” said the first mother I approached. She refused to give her name. Seven young children frolicked in the shallow water near her. A few of the kids wore water wings. Others wore life jackets. At least one wore no flotation device. “I was just handed a pamphlet on water safety and a pamphlet on activities in the park,” she said. “No one asked me anything about Cuba. And I don't sign anything without first letting my husband look at it, and he's not here.”

Shaking my head in bewilderment, I proceeded to search elsewhere for compliance. The beach was crowded with mothers and children pulling fruit-juice boxes from Igloo coolers as they lounged on low-slung nylon-and-aluminum chairs. I approached a second mother, her faced shaded by a wide straw hat.

“I don't consider going to the beach to be doing business with the county,” she told me. “I consider this using public property that I pay for with my taxes.”

“Ma'am,” I corrected her, “you just paid $3.50 to enter the park. You've transacted business.”

“I would consider it very burdensome if every time I wanted to use the park I would have to sign that form,” she protested. It should be noted that she too refused to give her name.

According to county law, this mother would only have to sign the form once. As long as her signature was on file downtown, compliance would be maintained. Still she balked at signing the form I presented to her. “Ma'am,” I clarified after explaining matters to her, “I don't make the laws.”

“You're not a county employee!” she shrieked. “You're citizens' auxiliary.”

“Yes, ma'am, I work for CACA.”

“You're not a county employee!” she repeated. “You have to take this up with the county if you have a problem with this.”

“Ma'am, please. How do I know one of your kids is not doing business with Cuba?”

“This conversation is over!”

“Would you like me to --”



BADGE NO. 0001

NARRATIVE: This officer was making a routine trip to Miami Beach via the Venetian Causeway. As obligated by law, I paid my 50-cent toll at the booth located at the base of the causeway's drawbridge. While handing my coins to the attendant, a county employee, I noted subject's failure to determine my compliance with the Cuba Ordinance. This officer immediately parked the CACA patrol vehicle in the adjacent gravel lot. Hitching up my police-surplus belt and grabbing my clipboard, I made my way over to the four-lane tollbooth.

As usual when on patrol, this officer was wearing his Citizens' Auxiliary uniform, with CACA patches on the sleeves, a dark-blue patrolman's hat on my head, and a silver “Special Enforcement” badge affixed to a blue polyester shirt. Official appearance seemed to unnerve the attendant working the eastbound cash lane.

“Excuse me, sir,” I asked him. “Are you checking people to see if they are compliant with the Miami-Dade County Cuba Ordinance?”

The gentleman stared blankly. His eyes registered no understanding of my simple question. I repeated: “Are you checking to see if every driver who passes through your tollbooth has signed the Cuba Affidavit?”

He maintained the blank expression. I leaned closer to check for the presence of alcohol on his breath, but could not detect any. He continued to act as if he had no idea what I was talking about, simply shaking his head back and forth and shrugging his shoulders. Before I could continue my interrogation, a vehicle approached. I caught the driver's attention.

“Ma'am, have you signed the Cuba Affidavit stating that you or anyone you are associated with are not conducting business with Cuba?” I asked.

“I don't know,” she said. “What is that? I don't do business with Cuba.”

“Great!” I responded. “I just need you to sign this affidavit to that effect so you'll be compliant.”

“I don't do business with the county either,” she snapped, looking impatient. This officer explained that simply paying the toll is completing a transaction and is then, technically, “doing business” with the county. Before I could obtain her signature, though, she sped off. (Note: This officer again requests permission to carry a firearm!)

A second county employee, a female, entered the tollbooth. She asked to see my authorization. This officer pointed to my CACA badge and explained that I simply was ensuring the law is being upheld. I also noted that traffic was beginning to back up. This officer waved the next car up to the gate.

“I'm in a hurry. Can I sign it on the way back?” said the male driver when I sought his compliance.

“Sir, I don't think that's a good idea,” I said. “I think in order for you to legally cross the causeway, you should sign now.” The gentleman signed, though he did not print his full name or his address.

Throughout this exchange the female tollbooth employee kept pestering this officer for “authorization.” She informed me that her “manager” was on his way over from his headquarters at the Rickenbacker Causeway tollbooth. Rather than wait for someone I assumed would be a county police agent, I mentioned that I too am in a hurry. I returned to my vehicle and proceeded across the causeway.

TIME: 3:45 P.M.
BADGE NO. 0001

NARRATIVE: Under the Cuba Ordinance as written and still in force, certain airlines are exempt from strict compliance. But this free pass does not apply to the shops and restaurants that sell sticky buns and I "heart" Florida keychains at the airport. During my regular morning phone calls, a spokesman for the airport explained that the proprietors of every gift shop and restaurant at MIA, from Cinnabon to Burger King to the sushi vendor near the airport's hotel lobby, has signed the Cuba Affidavit.

This officer wondered how the restaurants ensure total compliance with the county's law. The affidavit explicitly states that all entities doing business with the county cannot do business with anyone who does business with Cuba. Are the restaurants ensuring that everyone who purchases, say, a frozen yogurt from the airport TCBY, has not illegally traveled to or is not doing business with Cuba? A direct inspection was merited.

At approximately 3:51 p.m. this officer conducted surveillance under the yellow neon sign of the California Pizza Kitchen. (The aroma of the Thai chicken pie almost compromised this officer's objectivity.)

Not one restaurant employee asked if customers were in compliance. This officer could no longer stand idly by. I approached the subject, who claimed to be a stewardess. She had just purchased a barbecue chicken pizza. I asked her if she had ever signed the affidavit. Subject had no idea what I was talking about.

“How do I know you do not do business with Cuba?” I inquired. “Do you fly to Cuba?”

“No, I don't,” she huffed, growing angry, clearly unimpressed with my authority. “Look, I have to work with idiots on the planes. I don't want to deal with idiots here.”

Other customers were confronted. Yet less than three minutes after questioning began, a California Pizza Kitchen employee approached this officer. Employee declined to give name or answer questions about the ordinance. She said compliance wasn't her responsibility. Suspecting she might fear reprisal from her superiors, I leaned closer.

“Look,” I said in a low whisper. “This is an airport. A lot of people are flying to different countries. Some of them may be going to Cuba in violation of the embargo. What if one of them eats a pizza while illegally visiting Cuba?”

“So what if they eat a Cuban pizza?” asked a second employee (possibly manager, refused to give name). “So what if they then come here and eat a pizza? What's the problem?”

“Then they just did business with Cuba, and now they're doing business here,” I explained. “I'm sure the county would not be happy.”

Manager (??) asked if I worked for the county. Explained CACA and my duties. He repeated his question. I repeated my answer. With talks stalled, I approached another customer to ask him if he engages in business with Cuba. He ignored me.

“Do you have permission from the county?” interrupted alleged manager, asking the same question for the third time.

“No, I'm just here to help out,” I repeated, maintaining my composure. “I'm just a concerned citizen.”

“Why are you trying to get people to sign things by saying you're with the county?”

“I never said I was with the county.”

“You said the county would not be happy.”

“I'm sure the county would not be happy if your customers are indeed doing business with Cuba.”

“Leave the premises!” the manager commanded. “You're bothering my business!”

“But I am trying to help your business,” I protested.

At this time three uniformed Miami-Dade County Police Department officers approached this officer. They inquired as to what I was doing.

“Thank God you're here, officers,” I said. “I was looking for someone to back me up on this.” I indicated the California Pizza Kitchen counter. “This business is not having anyone sign the Cuba Affidavit.”

The officers collectively expressed anger. One of them, tall and bald, asked if I had any authority to be there. As I had informed the Pizza Kitchen management, I explained my position with the Cuba Affidavit Citizens' Auxiliary. “I was just checking to see if these people are compliant.”

“No, no, no, wait!” barked the bald officer. “Do you have any authority to be here?”

“I'm from the CACA,” I said, pointing to my badge.

“You're a citizen? You're not a police officer?” he asked.

“Oh no, no, no,” I replied. “I never said I was a police officer.”

When an officer asked for my ID, I indicated my CACA card, which the bald officer removed from my shirt. Said officers examined the ID for some time, then asked for this officer's driver's license, probably to check for possible use of an alias. After a few moments with both IDs, the bald officer attempted to hand back my CACA identification. I pointed to a space on my uniform's shirt pocket.

“It goes right here, sir,” I said.

At that moment those officers placed this officer in custody. They refused to surrender my driver license. They escorted me out of the terminal, past the short-term parking where my CACA patrol vehicle was parked, to the airport's police substation. I was detained for approximately one hour. The officers were observed debating my fate.

Eventually I was released on my own recognizance. Ofcr. Susan Munn explained that I need permission in advance to “solicit” at the airport, and then I may only do so in one of the zoned “First Amendment areas.” She also suggested that it may be in CACA's best interests to disband the auxiliary.

If I may have permission to write freely here, I can imagine nothing more dispiriting than a sworn, uniformed police officer not only failing to uphold the law but also squelching a grassroots citizens' initiative such as our noble auxiliary. At this time I must restate my request for permission to carry a weapon. With proper firepower respect for CACA among the populace should only increase.

It cost $10 to retrieve the patrol vehicle. Receipt attached.


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