This morning Parrot Jungle was swarming with anti-corruption law enforcers and ethics watchdogs. Alas, they weren’t there to blow the lid off another public scandal involving Miami-Dade taxpayer money. In fact, no crimes were being committed at the publicly subsidized bird park. Parrot Jungle was hosting the Florida International University Metropolitan Center’s breakfast discussion: “Fighting Public Corruption in Miami-Dade County.”
The esteemed panelists were Joe Centorino, chief of the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s public corruption division; Robert Meyers, executive director of the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission; Juan Santana, head of the Miami-Dade Police public corruption unit; and Miami Police Chief John Timoney. The rapt audience included Miami Business Forum executive director Mario Artecona, prominent lawyer-lobbyists Jorge Luis Lopez and Pablo Acosta, and in “the WTF are they doing here?” category: County Commissioner Natacha Seijas and her chief of staff Terry Murphy.
During the discourse, the anti-corruption avengers addressed the importance of protecting whistleblowers, distinguishing between criminal behavior and gross mismanagement, commissioners’ salaries, and the perception that Miami-Dade is more corrupt than other local jurisdictions.
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Centorino, who started investigating public officials behaving badly 20 years ago, says when the state attorney’s office started making public corruption a priority “we had to scrounge around for investigators.” He added Miami was facing more pressing problems such as the highest rate of homicides in the country. “Let’s face it, people are not afraid to walk out of their houses because a corrupt official is hiding in the bushes,” Centorino quipped.
Timoney added that he becomes distracted from doing his job when he has to react to media stories about corrupt police officers. “The best thing to do is to deal with these things before they blow up in your face,” Miami’s top cop explained. “If you don’t, these scandals will keep you on your heels.”
However, Meyers summed it up best: “Ethics is doing the right thing when no one is watching you.” --Francisco Alvarado