Hours after the Hoedown in Hadley Park, Riptide caught up with Mayor Tomas Regalado in Little Haiti to press him on the $400,000 "bribe" Chief Miguel Exposito says he was offered to resign. This time Regalado argued the deal was a perfectly legal severance package -- negotiated solely by ex-CFO Larry Spring -- and denied that any investigation was ongoing.
"This is standard practice," Regalado said. "When some people want to leave and they have a high position, the city prepares a package."
After criticizing the chief that morning for not reporting the alleged bribe to law enforcement authorities, Regalado now tried to downplay the incident. He pointed out that former Chief John Timoney took nearly $200,000 in severance when he left shortly after Regalado's election in 2009.
"'Bribe' is much too harsh a word. Exposito understands the city. The same thing was done with Timoney and Timoney left with elegance," Regalado said. "This is not a big deal to me. I think it's a distraction and the chief needs to do his job."
Regalado said there was no police investigation into the offer that he knew about. But the mayor has asked new City Manager Johnny Martinez to find the "e-mail trail" so he can better explain to the City Commission what happened.
The mayor also said it's possible that Larry Spring acted alone in crafting the offer to the police chief.
"The CFO has a tremendous responsibility of authority in financial dealings," he said. "(He) has the authority to negotiate on behalf of the city manager."
Before Riptide met with Regalado, police sources who asked not to be named offered an alternate theory of what happened in January.
Exposito initially accepted the buyout offer, the sources said, but later balked when he learned he'd lose a significant portion of the payment to taxes. When the city refused to reimburse him for Uncle Sam's take, the chief reneged, they said.
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Through a spokesman, Exposito declined to comment on that allegation. Regalado said he didn't know if it was true.
"I wouldn't know because I didn't participate in the offer," he said.