Just a few weeks ago, at a county school board meeting, Bernie Winer -- a consultant for the Miami Beach Police Athletic League -- received a standing ovation. A month before that, Miami Beach city commissioners handed him an award. But Riptide has uncovered a PAL expense report that helped spark a police investigation into the hulking retired cop and other PAL executive board members' performances.
Winer was executive director of the nonprofit, which sponsors kids' activities largely for the underprivileged, until about six years ago.
Last summer, he might have misused money donated to the youth organization by Miami Beach millionaire Mark Pickard.
According to PAL documents obtained by Riptide, Winer, PAL executive director Harry "Rocky" Morgan, and an executive board member took nine kids on a five-day, $27,147 rafting trip to Hells Canyon, Idaho, in June 2008. The adventure was never authorized by the PAL board, the documents show. Winer and Morgan later told board members the kids were chosen for the trip based on an essay-writing contest.
But Winer used the PAL funds to fly in his grandson from St. Louis, where he lives, the documents show. The nonprofit paid for the boy's $368 Southwest Airlines ticket and $1,210 rafting fee.
A few months ago, an auditor began asking questions. Via e-mail, Winer and Morgan plotted how to handle it. In a June 30, 2009 message that is among the PAL documents, Morgan seems to reference having the boy pen the essay more than a year after the contest. He writes, "Mr. Auditor asking about [your grandson], why he went and what essay he wrote... Told him to write it up and we will deal with it. Just an FYI, he should be done with the report by the end of the week??"
Miami Beach Police spokesperson Juan Sanchez confirmed there is an open internal affairs PAL case regarding expenses. "We're taking a look into it. It's an ethical, bordering on criminal issue, depending on the findings."
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Winer declined to comment, citing the open investigation. Morgan did not return Riptide's calls (though Sanchez telephoned in his stead.) Six PAL executive board members resigned in mid-July after the issue was discussed.