Tough Guys Die Hard
Innocence wasn't an issue. Of course he was innocent. The question, in his mind, was how best to exact his revenge, and on whom. This nightmare was the sophisticated plot of a small cadre of disgruntled underlings, a dirty dozen he'd knocked from their pedestals and made accountable for their actions. But they had continued to haunt him, festering at the core of his department, seething with bitterness, dogging him from the shadows, contaminating the very soul and spirit of his operation. Worse yet, they'd finally won over the city manager. After three years of scheming and disloyalty, he insisted, they'd finally won over his boss. The city manager was on their side now.
Miami Beach Police Chief Phillip Huber was squeezed into his leather-padded swivel chair in his office at the Miami Beach Police Department on Washington Avenue, his beefy arms wedged tightly between his body and the inside of the chair's arms. He shifted little and spoke sternly. His chubby fingers, usually given to pounding emphasis on the desk top, were clasped tightly in his lap. For weeks now, he said, he had been splayed across the media's hibachi to grill over the flames of public scrutiny and humiliation. And of course he hadn't done anything to deserve it -- except do his job.
In fact, he'd done exactly what he'd been told to do when, three and a half years ago, he had uprooted his family from Maryland and left behind nearly 23 years of faithful service with the Baltimore County Police Department to come to Miami Beach.
How many times had he said it to reporters in the days since this hell began? How many times did he have to repeat it before everyone understood? He was brought here to manage a department that was stuck in the 1950s. It was rough. It was replete with cliques. His charge was to break up those cliques and take the department into the 21st Century. He required people to actually work for a living. No more long breakfasts; no more long lunches. And some of them don't like it.
But the words were beginning to lose their meaning. Even Huber didn't seemed convinced by them. They no longer seemed capable of saving him from his own demise.
His mood had turned morbid. Three floors down, in the department's glass-enclosed lobby, were several wall plaques commemorating officers killed in the line of duty. "And I'm next," the chief continued, a tentative smirk creeping across his face. "My name will soon be up there, too, won't it?" There was no doubt in Huber's mind that the city manager had already reached his decision. Three weeks into this travesty and the manager was simply going through the motions. But, Huber promised, somebody was going to pay for all this. There would be litigation, and lots of it. "I'm not going to have someone destroy my career, defame my family, destroy my reputation, and expect me to go, 'Okay!'" he declared.
City Manager Roger Carlton was asking him for responses to a series of allegations involving financial improprieties, mismanagement, and ethnic insensitivity. "Total bullshit," Huber called them. He assured anyone who would listen that he had done nothing wrong. But for now all he could do was wait. And wait. Rumors had circulated that the ax would fall that day. But it was nearly 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 2, and there had been no word. Apparently he would be police chief for at least another weekend, another long weekend of little sleep. Uncertainty. Embarrassment. And next week, probably, his boss would hand him an empty cardboard box and tell him to get packing.
Huber pushed himself out of the chair and began pacing around his desk, between the sofa and the coffee table, back around his desk, beneath the rows and rows of framed commendations and awards and certificates that covered the office walls. "And the sad thing about all this," he said, "is that it's being fed by some of the same spoiled brats that we kicked out of their cush jobs way back when. I guess the city has to decide what it really wants. Do they want a police department that's responsible and accountable? Or do they want what it once was: a country club where everybody was happy because they got to do what they wanted to do?"
Huber glanced out his fourth-floor window toward the ocean glittering beyond the Art Deco buildings of Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive. The citizenry below strolled, flirted, Rollerbladed in the reflected light of the late-afternoon sun, a tableau of gaiety that mocked his present tribulations. "If this group is allowed to run me off -- the second police chief in three years," he warned, "the city will never ever get this police department back."
For three weeks the whole town had spun in the vortex of this administrative struggle, some people and institutions more violently than others. It had begun on June 10 when Huber met with Carlton to discuss Huber's tenure as police chief and, according to a city spokesman, "a cumulative piling on of concerns that have made it a time for the chief to reflect on his career."
Among those concerns was a recent investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The agency, citing unnamed witnesses and documents, had found "reasonable cause to believe" that Huber had demoted an officer because he is Jewish. The agency also determined that there was again "reasonable cause to believe" that, in response to the initial complaint, Huber harassed and retaliated against the officer, Lt. Steven Robbins. (Huber denied the allegations.) The EEOC determination had become big news. Widespread media reports had been imprecise and had given it the weight of an ironclad judicial ruling when in fact it was only a preliminary finding. Still, it prompted several Beach city commissioners to urge Carlton to investigate further.
News of the meeting between Huber and Carlton swept across Miami Beach, through the corridors of government and the offices of civic leadership. Word was that Huber had resigned his $91,714-per-year post -- or had been fired. The police department was dizzy with gossip. "It's a madhouse over here!" cried a harried Detective Al Boza, the police public information officer. "Haven't you heard? From what I understand, I may or may not have a chief."
City Manager Carlton denied the rumors and said he had neither asked the chief to resign nor fired him. "We had a general discussion about several issues," said Carlton, the only city official with the authority to hire or fire the police chief. "I said I had a loss of faith in his managerial capacities and he should think about this over the weekend. Phil is doing a lot of soul-searching and so am I."
At least that was the administration's interpretation of the tete-a-tete. "There was no soul-searching," Huber declared. "I didn't need to search my soul. I didn't do anything wrong. I can meet my maker and say what I've done." In fact, Huber added, Carlton had specifically asked for his resignation and tied it to the EEOC finding and to a pending vote of confidence in the chief to be held by the police union. (Carlton calls Huber's recollection "totally untrue.")
Their disagreement was only the first of many in this protracted drama, which would stretch out for weeks. Waning morale and questions about Huber's fate would tear apart the police department. Its union would rupture over whether to support or defy their chief in his hour of reckoning. City commissioners, meanwhile, would try to maintain their composure and reassure the public that Miami Beach wasn't backsliding into its notorious reputation for chaos and upheaval.
And at the center of this crisis stood two men, Carlton and Huber: the most powerful single person in city government and, arguably, his most important subordinate. Similar in their demanding management styles and arrogance, their confrontation had become a clash of the municipal strongmen, a battle that afforded the populace a glimpse into the personality-infused and highly politicized mechanisms of the municipal bureaucracy. Only one man, it seemed, would emerge with his job intact. No one was going to emerge looking great.
Chief Huber strode down the aisle of the commission chamber, where he had been sitting between his wife and his priest, and approached the lectern. "Chief, would you like to be heard?" asked Mayor Seymour Gelber. A Miami Beach businessman and former mayoral candidate named Bob Skidell had taken the opportunity of the Citizen's Forum, a kind of open mike for gadflies, to explain why Huber should be fired immediately.
"Yes, I'd like to be heard," the chief said, planting his feet before the microphone. "I feel like I've been forced to respond." And on that Wednesday afternoon, June 16, Huber delivered his first public defense since his career had been thrown into question six days earlier. The 44-year-old chief proceeded to explain the mandate he was handed when he took over the department in May 1990.
Indeed the department he inherited was plagued by troubles, from drug use among officers, to charges of police brutality and discrimination, to serious internal disorganization. A study conducted by an international police agency found overall operations to be "seriously flawed." Burdened by the department's worsening public image and internal strife, Huber's predecessor, Kenneth Glassman, had resigned.
A search committee, overseen by then-City Manager Rob Parkins, had settled on Huber, a highly ambitious colonel in the Baltimore County Police Department. The first outsider to run the department since 1963, Huber insisted on and won an unprecedented five-year contract then set about redesigning the organization. He instituted a wide range of new administrative systems, placated a fractious union, created new public safety programs, and rearranged the chain of command.
While some of Huber's initiatives successfully tightened up the department, a series of aggressive personnel changes splintered loyalty among his top-level officers. The shakeup included the demotion or transfer of four veteran officers, engendering four complaints to the EEOC and discord among officers in the upper echelons of the department. Two of the complaints were settled this past year, one was dropped. The fourth, filed by Lieutenant Robbins, had finally come back to haunt Huber.
"I know what I've done: I've managed an organization that's fought me every step of the way," continued the chief. "I've implemented more change in that department in the past three years than it has gone through in ten. Change is disruptive." Gripping the side of the podium, Huber glared out from under his bushy salt-and-pepper eyebrows at the commissioners before him. "I'm not going to be the fall guy for anyone's political fodder. I refuse to be run out of town by what I say is reverse anti-Semitism.
"I have never been found guilty of anything. I've never been offered a trial. I've never been offered an opportunity to defend myself. I've been unrepresented. I'm amazed, absolutely amazed, that this administration would sit by and watch me be publicly executed and not defend me. All I want is to get to the bottom of it and have it investigated, because I'm convinced that the truth will prevail. And I'm with the truth. Does my career, my personal well-being, mean nothing to you and this community? This," he seethed, "is ridiculous."
Huber retreated from the podium to mild applause from some in the audience. Behind the scenes since his "soul-searching" meeting with Carlton, Huber had been contacting neighbors, friends, acquaintances, and citizen groups he had worked with in various capacities, both public and private. By midweek the letters of support had begun to stack up in city hall; by the end of the month they would number more than a dozen. Receptionists for the mayor, commissioners, and city manager had fielded scores of phone calls concerning the matter. Some of Huber's supporters were at the commission meeting, but, Huber declared later, "I could've packed the place. A hundred people wanted to come, but I told them not to."
Outside the commission chambers that day, an airplane buzzed in circles high above the streets of Miami Beach, tugging a sign with the exhortation: "SUPPORT THE BEACH POLICE. DUMP HUBER." A vote of confidence in the chief, held by the police union, had begun. The decision to hold a vote had come during a crowded meeting at the headquarters of the union, the Fraternal Order of Police, the day before Carlton's first meeting with Huber. FOP Vice President Sgt. Paul Lupien, an outspoken Huber critic, championed the issue at the meeting even though the union's leadership had earlier divided on the subject behind closed doors.
Lupien said he and other officers were bothered by the record number of grievances filed by police officers since the beginning of the year -- seventeen -- and accused Huber of favoritism. "My decision to push the issue was also based on Huber's management style and his treating of some people more fairly than others," the union executive said. "If you're his buddy, he treats you good. If you're not, you get the shaft."
For some officers, though, the question of a confidence vote for Huber came as a surprise. During the rancorous contract negotiations between the city administration and the FOP, which ended this past April, the principal target of union venom had been Roger Carlton. "Huber has an abrasive personality and he stepped on some toes, but he's a known entity," remarked one veteran officer who said he planned to vote "confidence" for the chief. "It scares me to think what the city manager might put in Huber's place. Carlton and the city administration are the enemy."
On Saturday, June 19, the ballots were tallied: 80 for the chief, 124 against. Another 66 voting members of the FOP chose not to cast ballots.
And the spin control commenced in earnest. "The fact that he got as many votes as he did was significant," said Huber's attorney, Joe Geller, who is also chairman of the Dade County Democratic Party. "That's 80 more votes than he had when he got here." But the chief's critics waved a banner of victory. "We didn't go out with the intent to hang Huber," declared the FOP's Paul Lupien. "The man brought his own rope. He's going on telling everybody all the wonderful things he's done for this city. But when something goes wrong, he blames it on the previous administration. When is he going to start accepting responsibility for what is going on here?"
Huber downplayed the importance of the results, saying they reflected disgruntlement with city management in general, particularly after the bitter contract negotiations. "It shouldn't be too big a factor," he was quoted as saying in the Miami Herald the day after the tally. And in a remark directed at Carlton, he reportedly added, "Because when they take a confidence vote on him, his score would be zero." Huber later claimed his statement had been misquoted, but it wasn't well received at city hall. "Roger Carlton is a street fighter," commented one administration official. "You don't back him into a corner and take a swipe at him."
A police investigator sent to Baltimore in 1990 to collect background information about Huber -- then a candidate for Miami Beach chief of police -- issued a report to the search committee upon his return. Included was a compilation of remarks fellow police officers had made about the candidate, such as "brash and direct," "gets things done," "very very very bright," "is a yeller and screamer," "willing to get dirty," "not a yes man," "always been a hard worker," and "had to become diplomatic."
The report could have been written yesterday. Huber himself offers the document as his first defense of his character. "Nowhere in my contract does it say I have to change my personality for anyone," he bellowed during a recent interview. "Read my background report. It describes my management style to a 't.' That's why I was hired. That's exactly what they got. It's not my fault that we're on our third city manager. I'm not responsible for that political instability. It speaks to why you need a contract for your police chief to gain some stability."
But Miami Beach's designated tough guy met his match in March 1992, when Roger Carlton, now 46 years old, strode into his new office at city hall. Carlton had most recently been the executive vice president of Wometco Enterprises and before that the executive director of the City of Miami's Department of Off Street Parking. Like Huber he had an explosive personality and not a lot of patience. "Huber and Carlton are like two peas in a pod," noted Carla Talarico, who served as acting city manager for fourteen months before Carlton became city manager. "Their management style allows minimal input from subordinates, and they manage by intimidation." Commented one top-level city official: "Huber and Carlton really deserve each other."
And like Huber, Carlton had to tackle clear and challenging objectives. "The mandate I had as city manager was to stir things up, move the city off dead center, return us to financial health, clean out a lot of dead wood, reform the pension," Carlton remarked recently. "But that has been achieved in a different manner [than Huber's]. It has been achieved without litigation, without engendering long-term hatred to me as a person, and certainly without any claims of discrimination or retaliation."
Carlton said his problems with Huber began soon after the city manager's arrival in Miami Beach. "The first thing I received when I got here was a liturgy of problems with Huber from everybody on my staff," he recalled. In addition, the city's attorneys were juggling what he called "a plethora of litigation against Huber alleging discrimination and retaliation." Carlton said about ten EEOC complaints have been filed by police department employees naming Huber as a defendant. During the months after he took the post, Carlton also became concerned with plummeting morale at the police department. In May 1993, for example, the commission, mayor, and Carlton all received a letter, anonymously sent from the "The Command Staff," accusing Huber of isolating his naysayers in the upper ranks of the department by favoring some commanders over others and by "replacing the entire command staff with a group of individuals who will not question his actions under any circumstances -- ethical or not."
Huber countered that a program to hire civilians instead of sworn officers in certain posts has understandably angered some veteran employees who see promotion opportunities disappearing. But he dismissed the "Command Staff" letter as a product of the small cabal that for years has tried to run him out of town, the same "old guard" he demoted and transferred out of their "cush jobs and tit jobs," as he put it. While no one on the thirteen-member command staff has claimed authorship of the letter, no one has stepped forward to refute its contents. In fact, several command staffers said, Huber asked two commanders to pen and circulate rebuttals to the letter, but they both refused, saying they wouldn't be able to get enough signatures.
Finally, Carlton said, allegations of mismanagement, financial impropriety, abuse of position, and minor transgressions not befitting a police chief had reached a critical mass and deserved action.
But to some observers and participants in the unfolding drama, Carlton appeared to play a risky gambit when he broached the termination/resignation issue with Huber. Several top-level city officials privately questioned the strength of Carlton's case at the outset. "What got me upset is he did go out on a limb," one official complained. "I think he'd built up an impression over time about Huber. But he didn't go into that first meeting with a case." Huber's refusal to resign immediately only worsened matters for Carlton. "It spilled over into the media and became a roaring inferno," the official observed.
First-term Commissioner Susan Gottlieb said that before Carlton's initial meeting with Huber -- the "soul-searching" meeting -- she suggested to the city manager that he bring along a city attorney. "It was my concern that Chief Huber be given every opportunity to have a fair hearing, and it was also my concern that Mr. Carlton do everything by correct legal procedure," Gottlieb noted. Carlton didn't take the advice and met privately with Huber. Within days, though, Mayor Gelber told Carlton, in no uncertain terms, to make sure he brought an attorney into the process.
Not least among the commissioners' concerns were the potential costs involved if Huber were terminated. When he was hired in 1990, Huber demanded a five-year contract to give him a measure of security in the Beach's volatile political climate. The contract ensured that if he were fired without cause, the city would have to pay his salary through the end of his contract, which runs to May 1995. After that his pension would kick in. The Beach would have to pay Huber as much as $300,000.
When Huber didn't resign, Carlton earnestly began to investigate the allegations that had cropped up during the chief's tenure. Staff members dug through files, scrambled to find old documents, and even called former city employees to verify stories. The growing anti-Huber sentiment at city hall also encouraged more witnesses to step forward with testimony regarding various allegations.
And in an intriguing sideshow, city officials opened a dialogue with EEOC complainant Robbins's attorney, who provided city administrators with the names of three people who witnessed Huber's alleged acts of bigotry. "Steve Robbins is interested in settling his case and the city knows we have a good case," said the attorney, Loren Cohen. "So Steve Robbins has an interest in presenting witnesses to the city that corroborate what has been alleged." Cohen refused to say who the three witnesses are or what they witnessed regarding Robbins's charge of discrimination. But the awkward irony was clear: The harder Carlton pushed the bigotry allegations against Huber, the weaker would be the city's defense against a Robbins lawsuit.
The tension rapidly increased between the offices of the city manager and the police chief. A week after their first meeting, Carlton even issued a stern memo to Huber when he learned that files were being removed from the police department. "As you will recall...I had advised you that no files A including those files/records in your office, as well as any other police department files/records A were to be removed from the police department and taken to your residence or anywhere else off city property," the manager wrote. "This memo...is to be considered as a direct order to you to replace all city/police department files/records that you may have caused to be removed from the Miami Beach Police Department."
Huber said he was simply taking work home with him as part of his normal 60-hour work week.
As the days wore on and the vortex spun, Carlton emphasized that he wasn't taking this matter lightly. "There's nothing more important in the citizen's mind than their security, and the police chief stands for that," he said. His deliberation process was a difficult three-dimensional chess match as he weighed Huber's critics and their personal agendas against the validity of the numerous allegations against the chief, against the potentially high cost of termination, against the demands of the commission for fairness. "So this is a very complicated situation," Carlton admitted. "Throughout my career, I have learned that you sink or swim not on the basis of what you do every day, but how you handle the crises."
The black Volvo made a wide U-turn and came to rest alongside the curb outside Miami Beach City Hall. Out stepped Chief Huber. He buttoned his natty black-and-white houndstooth suit and smiled smugly at the descending media horde. As cameramen jostled for position and reporters thrust their microphones at the chief's face and barked questions, an aide lugging a cardboard box full of documents scurried around the edge of the pack and headed into the building. He carried Huber's bid for salvation.
For the second time in two weeks Huber was going to Carlton's office to respond to more than a dozen allegations of financial impropriety, racist behavior, and mismanagement that, if true, would cast serious doubt on his ability to be police chief. "I can't be too concerned because I have the truth on my side and the documentation to back it up," Huber told the reporters as he dug his hands into his pockets. "He's asked the questions, I'm going to respond. That's his job, that's my job." With that he excused himself and headed up to the city manager's office. Among Carlton's concerns were the following:
*In March 1991, in the presence of a subordinate, Huber "allegedly made additional racial slurs relative to African Americans and Jews, while on a trip to the Everglades," Carlton had written to Huber in a memo listing several allegations. The subordinate, Sgt. Daniel Pender, told New Times that while giving Huber a lift out to a hunting camp in the Everglades, the chief remarked, "You won't find any Jews and niggers out here." Huber admits that Pender gave him a ride to the Everglades but denies he ever made a racist or anti-Semitic remark on the trip. "I didn't know Danny Pender from Danny Schmender," the chief retorts. "Why would I reveal my innermost racial prejudices to a total stranger just like that? It's bullshit!"
*Several months after Huber took over as chief, he allegedly used a racial slur regarding black students at Miami Beach Senior High School. Huber denies he made such a remark and points to a letter the high school principal wrote in his support: "If the city officials determine to replace Chief Huber, I do hope that you will find someone as responsive to black, Hispanic, and Anglo students as Chief Huber has been."
*In 1991 Huber allegedly uttered racial slurs at a black prisoner who had been arrested for breaking into the chief's Miami Beach house. According to one officer who says he witnessed the incident (and requested anonymity), Huber marched over to the holding cell, kicked the bars, and yelled, among other epithets, "You're going to be one old nigger by the time you get of jail!" Another officer and the prisoner himself have confirmed the story. Huber says a State Attorney's Office investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing. The investigator interviewed the prisoner's attorney, who said that "other than being bitten by a police dog while fleeing the scene, [the defendant] had no complaints."
*In 1991 the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the training of Huber and two civilian commanders to become certified as Florida police officers. The inquiry revealed that the classes "were riddled with violations." The chief and his commanders had attended less than a quarter of the total class hours required by Florida law, but had signed attendance sheets claiming they had satisfied the necessary hours. Huber blames his training staff -- particularly Lieutenant Robbins -- for not designing a certification program in compliance with state rules.
On several occasions, the chief allegedly borrowed machine guns to go hunting in the Everglades. Huber denies the allegation and says in 1990 he took an automatic rifle to the Everglades to test the weapon, which he'd never used. Unsure the police range was adequate, he headed for an unpopulated section of the Everglades.
Carlton learned that the chief had double-billed for a dinner while at a conference in St. Louis in 1992. The chief says the billing snafu was an inadvertent staff error that was rectified as soon as he learned about it.
Several audits have revealed sloppy management practices. One found that the police department couldn't say exactly how many cars it had confiscated for evidence. Six are still unaccounted for. Huber says the audit covered a period of time when he wasn't chief and that in response to the findings he reprimanded two employees, transferred another, and improved the bookkeeping.
In 1992 Huber used a city-owned truck to transport palm trees from a nursery to his home and had an on-duty officer help him. Huber says his car was in the shop at the time and he was entitled to borrow any available city vehicle he wanted until his take-home car was repaired. The officer, he says, was coincidentally dropping off a report at his house and helped Huber unload one tree from the truck.
Carlton expressed concern that neither the police department's morale nor Huber's "management style" had improved since he had become city manager. Carlton referred to a counseling session between former City Manager Rob Parkins and Huber when Parkins advised the chief that his "interpersonal skills had alienated a substantial number of the city's department directors, as well as your own senior and command staff members."
Huber says waning morale is not his fault. He blames successive budget cuts, decreases in his police force and vehicle fleet, an inability to convince city management that crime is on the increase, and the creation of a city manager's committee to review police conduct and policing standards. "All these related issues came from city hall," Huber declares. "If they are aids to improved morale, then I missed Management 101."
Huber allegedly accepted candidates into the reserve officers program without consulting the city manager and appointed a group that included no blacks A both acts in direct contradiction of Carlton's orders. Huber denies the charges. "Total bullshit! It's another example of Roger trying to pile on," he complains. "No one's done more in this community for community hiring." The chief claims 50 to 60 percent of all his hires have been minorities.
Carlton charged that Huber, despite an order from then-acting City Manager Carla Talarico, had placed his oldest son in the city's police cadet program. Furthermore Huber had allegedly placed two more of his children in a city-funded Police Athletic League (PAL) program geared toward disadvantaged kids, despite Carlton's orders not to do so.
Huber acknowledges his son applied for the cadet program, but withdrew before the selection process was completed. Regarding the PAL program, Huber says disadvantaged children are the "target audience" but that no one is denied participation. "We recruit all kids," he says. "We've never turned anybody away." And in an embarrassing jab at his boss, Huber displays a photograph of Carlton standing alongside his son and other program participants receiving a PAL award this past year.
"This is what I call throwing shit on a wall and seeing what sticks," Huber grumbled during an interview the day after his second meeting with Carlton to review the complaints and allegations. "This is an attempt to jump on everything that comes across his desk to make me look bad." Most of the allegations and complaints, Huber pointed out, date back to 1991. Moreover, he added, no city manager had ever given him an annual performance review, as his contract demands. "It appears to me, unless I'm being really naive, that someone is searching for cause to terminate my contract."
If indeed a search was under way, it would only get worse for Huber as his ordeal passed from the third week into the fourth, fifth, and on to the sixth. The pressure on the chief was evident. One notable example occurred after Channel 10 reporter Connie Hicks aired a report about the allegation concerning Huber's treatment of the black prisoner who had broken into his home. The segment included damning comments from a Beach police officer. Hicks's report enraged Huber, who called her at the station just as she was leaving for the night. "He said he was very angry, his wife was upset," Hicks recalled. "We were destroying his life." He wanted Hicks to come by the police station so he could set the record straight.
The reporter, a producer, and a cameraman arrived at Huber's office about 12:30 a.m. There they found the chief (dressed in a V-neck undershirt and blue jeans) and his wife. He had in hand a copy of the State Attorney's investigation into the incident. "He was sort of pacing, very upset, going back and forth behind his desk," Hicks remembered. "His wife was saying, 'Do you have any idea what this is doing to us?'" At one point a teary-eyed subordinate stuck her head in and said, "If he goes, I fear for this department."
After talking with Hicks for half an hour, the chief agreed to an on-camera interview. As the tape rolled, a visibly agitated Huber reiterated his message of doom: "If this police chief is allowed to be run out of town, they'll lose this department forever."
Despite his strong words, Huber looked anything but the picture of confidence and robustness. Bedraggled and with gray circles of fatigue under his eyes, he seemed desperate to the point of distraction. But by the beginning of this past week, he still showed no willingness to resign and said he was preparing the groundwork for legal action against various people, among them his critics within the department and city administrators.
Carlton, meanwhile, wasn't saying whether he was going to retain the chief or fire him. At the manager's disposal were a range of options, including termination, suspension, a buyout of Huber's contract, modification of the existing contract, or the impaneling of an independent commission to investigate all allegations. "Whatever decision I make, I must make it soon," Carlton said this past week during an interview, "because there's chaos within the administration and the police department. There's tension in the community, and they'd like to know their police department has settled down."
But as far as the city's attorneys were concerned, the longer the delay the better. "From a strictly legal point of view, we see no need for any deadlines," explained City Attorney Laurence Feingold. "Delay allows us the luxury of having total due process and affording everybody a fair opportunity to be heard. But I'm not the manager, and there may be managerial reasons why he feels like he has to act."
This past week the EEOC released its voluminous file regarding the investigation into Lt. Steven Robbins's discrimination and retaliation complaints. Given the uproar caused by the earlier announcement of the EEOC's findings (despite their preliminary nature), expectations were extraordinarily high.
But what could have been a bullet fatal to Huber's career appeared to be only a blank.
Amid reams and reams of personnel files and interoffice memoranda from both sides in the dispute was the core: Robbins's allegations and the city's responses. But there were no notes from the investigator (who was not an attorney), no detailed conclusion, and no indication of how he determined he had "reasonable cause" to believe Robbins. The file did include unsigned statements taken from two of Robbins's colleagues -- who have also been two of Huber's staunchest critics -- alleging racist and retaliatory behavior. But again the documents included no definitive proof, no proverbial smoking gun.
For his part, Carlton wouldn't comment on the legal implications of the EEOC file because of the pending threat of litigation from Robbins. Huber, on the other hand, was thrilled, even though the EEOC file hadn't cleared him of the charges any more than it had indicted him. "I haven't stopped laughing yet," he chortled this past Thursday. "I think it's funny that it's still the same detractors." The entire imbroglio, he said, had stemmed from his decision back in 1991 to demote or reassign some key officers in the command staff, actions his bosses had permitted at the time. "And I'm the one getting fucked for it!" he exclaimed. "I hope the city has the intestinal fortitude to go to court and win [the Robbins] case."
As for his own fate, Huber asserted that the EEOC file had dramatically changed the complexion of his situation. "How could it bear any other way but favorably?" he crowed. "I don't expect to be fired, I expect to be cleared! It's all bullshit!
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