North Bay Village residents believe Mayor Oscar Alfonso (left), city attorney Joseph Geller (center), and city manager Matthew Schwartz (right) are in cahoots, doing bad things.
They accused the former Miami and Miami Beach assistant city manager of protecting bad police officers loyal to Mayor Oscar Alfonso and retaliating against cops who do a good job.
"I don't operate that way," Schwartz says in his defense. "My decisions are based on careful evaluations."
Not so, counters village resident Richard Chervony, who recently criticized Schwartz for finding a new job for cop Gus Cruz as a code enforcement officer. According to the homeowner and other sources, Cruz was hired by North Bay Village after he lost his job as a Miami Beach police officer because he had been busted working another job while on that city's dime.
"This is the fourth police officer that should have been put out to pasture," Chervony grouses in a recent email to Schwartz, "but that [instead] has received preferential treatment by the city manager's office."
Cruz is one of a dozen officers who remain members of the department's Police Benevolent Association chapter. The rest of the rank-and-file signed with the Fraternal Order of Police in 2008 to protest unfair representation by PBA lodge leader Lt. Steve McVay, who campaigned for Alonso, as well as publicly supporting the hiring of Schwartz and Geller.
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McVay, Cruz and two other PBA members have all received cushy new assignments while the department's FOP leaders, including the North Bay Village officer of the year Sgt. Kevin Beaty, have faced retaliation, says resident Jane Blake. "So I guess anyone who can't follow orders can now get special treatment as long as they are member of the PBA," Blake adds.
Chervony says he plans to file a complaint against Schwartz with the Florida Ethics Commission.
Schwartz insists he is not playing favorites. "When the budget was approved last year, I was given a mandate to shave $350,000 from the police department," Schwartz explains. "I'm concerned about saving jobs."
Schwartz says Cruz has "the enthusiasm, is smart, and can deal with people," making him an ideal candidate for the code enforcement position. "Unfortunately some people are turning this into a political fiasco," Schwartz contends. "That he is with the PBA has nothing to do with my decision. People here like to throw mud."