Miami Beach Police Chief Carlos Noriega is already in hot water. This summer, his cops seized cameras after a fatal police-involved shooting. And two officers on a drunken ATV joyride ran over beachgoers. So he probably should avoid berating a resident who's simply asking questions -- particularly when they relate to former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, who was convicted of running an $880 million Ponzi scheme.
But for the past two weeks, Noriega has waged an escalating email war of words with Steve "Bubba" Cohen, a former Police Athletic League board member.
On August 30, two weeks after Yahoo! Sports published an exposé about Shapiro's ties to the University of Miami athletes, Cohen sent an email to the chief, who made $208,783.73 in 2010. Shapiro had been appointed to the PAL in 2007, was tight with former Chief Don De Lucca, and was known to dine with Noriega, and Cohen wanted to know more about the chief's ties to the schemer. "Have [you] questioned Mr. Shapiro's involvement with the PAL?" Cohen asked.
"I don't understand the question," replied Noriega, who maintains that Shapiro was not a friend.
Cohen tried again September 2, asking whether Shapiro had provided his yacht for PAL fundraisers or made cash donations. "I understand he was a very generous felon," Cohen wrote.
"I'm sorry this matter has consumed your life... and you feel the need to repeatedly try to attack and slander me," Noriega wrote back. "I feel sorry for you."
Cohen sent a final note September 5, politely but sarcastically castigating the chief for avoiding his questions. "With all your diversionary tactics... we almost forgot about the questions concerning my fellow PAL board member and convicted felon Nevin Shapiro," he wrote.
Noriega was infuriated. He pointed out that, as chief, he didn't oversee the PAL.: "You... are making an incredible lawsuit against yourself for me," he replied. "I believe you are in serious need of professional help... I will no longer entertain your slanderous and irrational rants."
"He wants to paint me as disgruntled and unhappy," Cohen says. "But he still won't answer my questions."
Noriega declined to comment further.
Update: Noriega just sent Riptide a statement on the email exchange with Cohen. He says he's been bombarded with "countless offensive emails" from Cohen, who has made him "a primary target of his ruthless and misguided campaign."
Here's his full statement:
"I would recommend that the New Times look into how many e-mails I have received from Mr. Cohen, the tone of those e-mails, the allegations and personal attacks towards me because of his frustrations with his inability to get ALL of his desired outcomes with the PAL investigation. I have and continue to encourage Mr. Cohen to take his case to any outside authority (FDLE, IG's Office, etc.) he thinks should become involved, since he apparently will never come to terms with the findings/actions of the MBPD as well as those of the State Attorney's Office concerning the PAL. Mr. Cohen has instead chosen to send slanderous e-mails and attempts to use the media to his advantage to support his case. At some point, I did need to defend my character and reputation (as I did), as well as that of the organization, against a person who is obsessed and has made me a primary target of his ruthless and misguided campaign. I will forward you the latest e-mail I received from Mr. Cohen today, which reflects a continuation of his tactics. I think his countless offensive e-mails outnumber the handful I responded to by far."
For context on the exchange below, Cohen has long been sniping at Noriega over another controversy involving the PAL, when a former executive director allegedly misappropriated thousands to send his own grandkid on a whitewater rafting trip.
Here's the full exchange:
Steve "Bubba Cohen on Aug. 30:
All this Nevin Shapiro in the press has left me a little confused with the request by Mr. Noriega and Mr. Jenkins for my information?... Chief Noriega claims that his relationship with Nevin Shapiro was the same as that with any private citizen...has Chief Noriega also requested Mr. Shapiro information and any and all of his involvement with the PAL for since he served on the PAL board during most of this time?
I am curious about what information about myself was provide? Could I please get any and all information that the City of Miami Beach provided to Mr. Noriega and Mr. Jenkins concerning the request made by both of them below?... Also if you could please give me an idea of the cost?
This request by Mr. Noriega and Mr. Jenkins was made in April of 2011, so I assumed it was delivered?
I would also like a copy of the receipts showing that they paid for this information, just as I have when requesting information from the City of Miami Beach?
If they did not pay for this information maybe someone could explain why the Chief of Police and a Parking department employee would be provided any information on a private citizen at no charge unless those departments were conducting a investigation of that Citizen?
Thank you in advance for your promptness!!!
Steve "Bubba" Cohen
Here's Noriega's response on Sept. 2 after Cohen sent two more notes asking for the same info to city officials, CC'd to the chief:
The information that I requested (in my PPR #5913) is currently part of my attorney's file which also includes all e-mails and other correspondences from Mr. Cohen and his attorney, minutes of Mr. Cohen's remarks during the Dr. Stanley Sutnik Citizen's Forums at various Commission meetings, his social networking system commentaries, etc. As far as Mr. Cohen's request about payment is concerned, the documents were provided by the PAL and my multiple attempts to pay were unsuccessful due to the PAL President's policy of not charging Board members for this type of information. For the record, the PRR documentation in question was provided by the PAL not the City. Next, the information I requested on Mr. Cohen was limited to Mr. Cohen's activities during his time as second in charge (Vice-President) of the PAL's Executive Board, where many, if not all, of his allegations stem from. As far as Mr. Shapiro is concerned, I don't understand the question but he was voted into the PAL during a previous PD administration and during Mr. Cohen's watch on the PAL Executive Board. As a result of all the aforementioned information, I suggest that this PRR (#6201) be sent to the PAL for the information requested since that is where I received mine from. Thanks, Carlos
Cohen responded on the same day with this:
Guess this means I am not going to get an honorary police badge? (Link) http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/07/15/2316604/miami-beach-recalls-honorary-police.html
Carlos your attorney seems to be a very busy person these days (Google Miami Beach Police)... attorney fees can be very costly?
It seems the PAL president doesn't have any problems collecting hundreds of dollars from the so call 2nd in command when I request PAL records to discharge my fiduciary responsibilities as a member of the board during my term of serving on the PAL board.
Why was a public records request made of the city by you and the president of the PAL for information that the PAL had? You and Mr. Jenkins wanted that information to flow through the City Clerk's office to "ensure consistency, accountably and transparency with this process." And the clerk's office is now asking for that information back... (A portion of the 9-1-11 email to you from the clerk's Office)... "Please provide me with any and all information that was provided to you via your request which was number PRR # 5913."
Now it looks like I can't get that information ... Would I be save in assuming that the "ensure consistency, accountably and transparency with this process." Does not apply to the Clerk's office or Police department?
While we are on the record lets clarify the 2nd in command at the PAL...if my memory serves me correct I was one of 4 vice presidents on the PAL executive board and one of up to 25 individual and equal votes on any PAL business conducted by the executive board.
I must confess ... that during the time (1/1/2008-7/25/09) that I was on the executive board and during the one year plus that I was coaching soccer for underprivileged kids, I bought 60 pairs of soccer shoes with my own money for the kids because I could not wait for Officer Morgan to approve this expense while many of my kids were practicing barefoot or in school shoes because they could not afford soccer shoes... I hope I am not subject to arrest for this action?
Also for the record I never had check writing privilege, but the appointed to the PAL by the Chief of Police Executive Director did... yet a sworn police officer whose signature was on most if not all of the check issued for the questionable behavior by the PAL, was not interviewed by your Internal Affairs investigation of financial wrongdoing at the PAL?
Concerning my allegations of wrong doing I believe most of them were identified by a special committee at 2 meetings... one in June and one in July of 2009 that included Division Chief William Riley who was the Treasurer of the PAL at the time and was also not interviewed by your Internal Affairs investigation of financial wrongdoing at the PAL?
Carlos I am sure you remember that 10 members of the PAL board resigned in July of 2009, many because they felt they could not discharge their fiduciary responsibilities as a member of the board, including Chief Riley as Treasurer of the PAL.
Finally, concerning Nevin Shapiro!
Did Shapiro provide his yacht during the annual PAL fishing tournament?
Did Mr. Shapiro provide professional football players for several PAL events?
Did Mr. Shapiro or his companies make any donations of cash, goods or services to the PAL?
I know you are concerned about my possible wrong doing at the PAL (This Shoe Gate could be big!)...I hope you have also requested information concerning Nevin Shapiro (I understand he was a very generous felon) who was also a member of the Miami Beach PAL board?
Noriega replies on the same day:
Mr. Cohen, For the last time, and I mean the last time, the Police Department's Internal Affairs Unit investigated this case for any criminal violations in conjunction with the SAO. Since none could be proven, the case was closed albeit to your dissatisfaction (we have no authority over administrative matters due to the fact that the PAL is a private organization that we simply partner with). However, the PD and City did address some other issues that we did have control and authority over specifically with the Executive Director position and some other areas identified thru the audit. My support for the PAL has been there since day one as Police Chief since I coached kids in baseball, basketball and football for 17 years as a volunteer often spending my own money on them for a variety of helpful reasons, during the almost two decades I was involved with this (surprised?). More importantly, I believe that the PAL has and continues to make a difference in the lives of countless children for over 50 years and counting. I'm sorry this matter has consumed your life to the degree it has, and you feel the need to repeatedly try to attack and slander me. I feel sorry for you and hope you can get past this someday, so we can turn your misguided efforts into a unified front to support a wonderful community organization like the PAL. Have a great evening and a wonderful Labor Day weekend! Carlos
Cohen rebuts on Sept. 4:
Carlos, I am beginning to think that the City of Miami Beach and the Chief of Police do not want to talk about possible PAL wrongdoing...but the possibility exsists that PAL officials and the Miami Beach Police Department could have been misusing money intended for kids (your IA report identified this as Theift). Even worse is the possibility that the Honor and Respect that the Miami Beach Police Department Badge represents could have been used to possibly cover up this wrong doing!
I am sorry that your position as Chief has made you so thin skinned that any criticism of your department is taken as a personal attack and you try to label it as slanderous! This could not be further from the truth...and TRUTH has been the only item I have sought since May of 2009 in attempting to discharge my fiduciary responsibility as a PAL Board member!
It seems that the Miami Beach PAL has had some questionable behavior that was touched on somewhat in the City's audit, identified further in the PAL Special Committee meetings held in June and July of 2009 and categorized further in the 400 pages of documentation that Sergeant Ramos your IA investigator collected in his investigation!
I'm not Detective Colombo, but even I could figure out that when your investigator Sergeant Ramos fails to interview the Executive Director that signed most if not all of the checks, does not interview the Treasurer, or the $15 to $20,000 a year PAL bookkeeper ...and Ramos is investigating Theft via financial wrongdoing something stinks!!!
When Sergeant Ramos the IA investigator fails to ask Mr. Winer or Mr. Jenkins any specific questions about some of the questionable behavior identified in the 400 pages he gathered, your IA investigation reeks from the stench!
Then to have you and the City Manager (King George) justify this garbage saying the State Attorney's Office signed off on it, call me stupid... but I just can't accept this as being factually correct.
Carlos, I don't know if this is true, but Commissioner Wolfson once mentioned that Sergeant Ramos wife works at the State Attorney's Office?
You mentioned at the July 1, 2010 Police Department budget meeting when asked by Commissioner Libbin that you personally review every IA case weekly? Maybe you could clarify that remark... is it weekly or weakly?
I am also not clear concerning the relationship between the City, Police Department and the PAL?
It seems when you do not want to answer questions about the PAL you'll say that... "we have no authority over administrative matters due to the fact that the PAL is a private organization that we simply partner with"!!!
Do you know that the PAL has received over $1,000,000 in funding from the City of Miami Beach from January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2010?
Did you know that the Executive Director responsible for the day to day operations of the PAL is one of your Police Officers that reports to you?
Did you and King George review the e-mails of City Manager and Police Department people helping to craft the PAL response to City Audit of the PAL?
I'm sure you and King George were not aware that the City Website has the PAL listed as reporting to the Chief of Police Office along with the Internal Affairs Unit and Community Affairs Office? Link: http://web.miamibeachfl.gov/pd/scroll.aspx?id=19096
Does this mean that the Chief of Police Office and the thus the City have no authority over Administrative matters and simply partner with Internal Affairs and Community Affairs also?
Remember I'm not Detective Colombo, but facts are facts and it sure looks like the PAL is part of the City of Miami Beach and accountable to the Chief of Police office!!!
I am sorry about all of the other problems that your department has had over the past several years, but it has been over 2 years since I suspected possible wrong doing at the PAL and brought it to Mayor Bower and Commissioner Weithorns' attention, and the mayor gave this information to King George to verify with the auditors! ...First King George tells me he is not able to talk about the PAL during the additional 8 months of the city Audit to verify copies of receipts...then you Carlos, tell me you are not able to talk about the PAL during the 14 month IA investigation, but you will dot your I's and cross your T's before it is submitted to the State Attorneys Office...I guess you lost my phone number?
Now Carlos you inform me.... " For the last time, and I mean the last time, the Police Department's Internal Affairs Unit investigated this case for any criminal violations in conjunction with the SAO. Since none could be proven, the case was closed albeit to your dissatisfaction"
Carlos, not so fast...a lot of questions never were and still have not been answered.
What I cannot for the life of me figure out is... if the Specific Allegation is Embezzlement of Funds FSS 812 and the Details of Allegation is the Misappropriation of funds and/or unlawful accounting practices... why would Sergeant Ramos not interview the executive director Officer Harry Morgan who would have been involved with or aware of any of the allegations made at the July 15, 2009 Special Committee meeting and more importantly why wasn't the Treasurer of the Organization, Division Chief William Riley who resigned from the board as treasure of the Miami Beach PAL, or the PAL Bookkeeper and City Employee Carlos Munoz not interviewed?
Why in the 24 hours it took the State Attorney's office to sign off on the Investigation, did the SAO accept Sergeant Ramos' conclusion below without asking how he came to this conclusion?... " it was determined that there were no administrative violations in connection with this allegation. Based on the lack of administrative violations, the following employees were not interviewed: Detective Alkareem Azim, Division Chief William Riley and Officer Harry Morgan." Who, then, are the key witnesses in this investigation, if it really was an investigation?
I am beginning to think that the City of Miami Beach and the Chief of Police do not want to talk about possible PAL wrongdoing...but the possibility exsists that PAL officials and the Miami Beach Police Department could have been misusing money intended for kids (your IA report identified this as Theft). Even worse is the possibility that the Honor and Respect that the Miami Beach Police Department Badge represents could have been used to possibly cover up this wrong doing!
This is something I hope everyone on this e-mail will not tolerate!
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Finally, here's Noriega's last reply on Sept. 5:
I did say that my last e-mail to you was going to be my last on any PAL matter, but I have to respond since you alone are making an incredible lawsuit against youself for me. I do feel sorry for you but more importantly, I beleive you are in serious need of professional help. You are obviously going to continue to make me the target of your frustrations and failures with the PAL. You have portayed yourself as an individual who seems to possess a tremendous amount of knowledge about the problems with the PAL when it's convenient, but are oblivious to matters that would reflect negatively on you such as any related to Mr. Shapiro (a member under your watch) or any other on your countless allegations. Again, you were on the PAL's Executive Board as a Vice-President and I have been and continue to be a general member, which a supportive Police Chief of a local PAL should be. I have tried to help you, meet with you, talk with you and investigate what we could regarding the allegations made by you about the PAL, only to become the target of your displaced aggression and inexplicable anger. I would recommend that you forward any inquiries that you have about the PAL to it's President or one of it's Executive Board members. Again, the PAL is a private organization and is not run by the MBPD other than to provide an Executive Director as part of our partnership efforts. I do hope that you follow up and seek the professional help I beleve you are in desperate need of, but officially for the record, I will no longer entertain your slanderous and irrational rants again. To all copied by Mr. Cohen's e-mail, please do not interpret my decision not to respond to any future e-mails as anything other than the professional position and restraint that I need to exhibit with this individual.