Miami's Top Cop Breaks the Law

For almost a month, Miami Police Chief John Timoney has ignored the rules of the city he oversees. First a citizens' panel and then a circuit court judge ordered him to fork over hundreds of pages of records related to a city probe into his free use of a Lexus SUV, but he hasn't complied.

"Chief Timoney accepted a free Lexus from Lexus of Kendall," writes Armando Aguilar, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). "He drove this car for approximately 15 months. This is a clear violation of his own department orders.... The chief of police should be an example for others to follow."

The Miami Civilian Investigative Panel, which probes complaints about police, first subpoenaed Timoney to appear this past November 30. The chief backed out of a hearing December 6, the day before he was set to testify.

The panel issued a second subpoena December 10. This time, Timoney responded with a letter saying he was "perplexed" by the request for documents relating to his mileage and cell phone and fuel card use.

Despite his confusion, he showed up at a December 21 meeting. On an audio recording, Charles Mays, the panel's independent counsel, introduces himself and the group to the chief. "We really appreciate you being here," he says.

Timoney interrupts Mays by clearing his throat. "Before you go [any further], that may not be necessary, because I'm here of my own volition, not as a result of a subpoena ... it is my contention that this board, the Civilian Investigative Panel, has no jurisdiction over me," Timoney says. "Even if you had the power that you think you have, which I may think you don't, you've gone about this in the entirely wrong manner.

"What you're doing is the political dirty work for the FOP," he adds. "You're being used, it looks to me."

Then he "refused to testify or produce the documents identified in the subpoena," court records show.

Six days later, on December 27, the panel asked the court to enforce the subpoenas. On January 4, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Victoria Sigler agreed and ordered the chief to produce the records "forthwith." So far he has not. The panel has invited him to appear and hand over the documents this Friday.

Timoney didn't respond to a phone message and e-mail left with the City of Miami Police Department.

Aguilar contends the chief "betrayed the public's trust" and sent a message to officers that "you can violate our rules and regulations and the law as long as you have the right connections."

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Janine Zeitlin