At nine o'clock sharp on Wednesday, February 24, Norman Braman strolled into Indian Creek Village's teensy town hall to address his esteemed council. In an unprompted, five-minute soliloquy, the millionaire auto salesman paid homage to the ultra-exclusive isle on which he had settled eighteen months ago. The crown jewel of the Atlantic, he insisted. Breathtakingly scenic, quiet, and best of all, protected by a truly exemplary police department.
Braman was a newcomer, of course, but he no doubt had a point. Their splendid kingdom, just west of Surfside, sparkled this morning. The rolling green of the golf course, the five varieties of palm trees, the verdant lawns A all sipped at the winter sun like an impeccably prepared cocktail. Beyond the sturdy bulkhead, the emerald wavelets of Biscayne Bay kissed at the sky. As Braman spoke, the council, crowded around a table only slightly too large for a four-hand game of bridge, positively beamed. Even the purple bougainvillea, visible across the ninth fairway, seemed to nod agreement in the obedient breeze.
There was this little matter of the attack dogs living next door. But Braman was confident his neighbor, the Saudi prince, would resolve the issue with the council members, who are, after all, residents as well. And in fact, Braman had barely turned to go and already the village attorney had been dispatched to draw up an attack-dog ordinance. So, too, the council members boldly called for stricter enforcement of an ordinance limiting the hours construction labor would be allowed on the island.
If only Braman had stuck around for agenda item number nine, an independent review of Indian Creek's fourteen-man police force.
The report, freshly inked after six months of investigation, described the department as "out of control," a fiefdom plagued by cronyism and corruption, ruled by an incompetent chief and a devious sergeant, both of whom faced possible criminal charges.
Council members had scarcely browsed part one of the 38-page overview, and already they knew it spelled trouble for their boys in blue, long the object of civic pride in an otherwise reclusive 31-home enclave. Worse still, the report meant scandal. Had they not paid millions of dollars to avoid just such headaches? Impertinent reporters, germ-breeding microphones, and those nasty, blinding flashbulbs. The council was not pleased.
"The village is going to be agog over this thing, so let's get to it," said councilman Ken Fisher, a computer magnate.
"Yes, when are we going to meet?" demanded Anne McDougal, a magazine editor who had married the owner of Culligan Water Conditioning, Inc. "The report certainly does make for some interesting reading."
This prickly comment she aimed at Donald LeBrun, the village's jittery, red-faced manager. LeBrun had ordered the review, yet for months dismissed it as the byproduct of disgruntled employees. Though half his officers now talked of suing the village, though a stream of state and federal agencies had initiated probes of the department, though the FBI had arrested one of his sergeants on a narcotics charge, LeBrun still valiantly refused to concede that something had gone wrong on his watch as manager. "Let's not rush this thing," he sputtered at last.
Sensing an opening, the chief of police rose to defend himself. A young man with designer spectacles and mousse-stiffened hair, he was immediately shouted down.
"I say we meet in two days," cried McDougal, who was eager to take action on the report's numerous recommendations.
"Ohhh, now, there's an awful lot of work to be done here," LeBrun said, dread-hesitant.
"We've waited six months," McDougal pressed.
"I don't care," LeBrun shot back. The gold pen in his right hand quivered, and his face, now crimson, assumed the cast of a courtier slipping, irretrievably, out of royal favor.
"Listen, nobody's attacking you, Don," said Mayor Kenneth Bagwell, the Texas oilman. "Let's slow down here. We don't want to leave ourselves open to litigation."
On this, at least, they could all agree.
After a bit more wrangling, they set a date to reconvene, and the meeting dispersed. One by one the elegant cars parked outside village hall glided off, until only the mayor and LeBrun remained. Together they walked across the street to the driveway of Bagwell's mansion, where the pair huddled to discuss their dilemma in blissful ignorance of Florida's Sunshine Law.
The man who sparked the dilemma, meanwhile, was working the loneliest police post in Dade County. For seven months Officer Ronny Kay has been under orders from the Village of Indian Creek to remain in his North Miami Beach home. His shift: nine to five weekdays. His lone duty: to call the station three times a day. Punishment for leaving his post: termination.
"I was going nuts for the first few months," says Kay, a 54-year-old former New York City cop. "Then I started fixing up the place to keep busy. Officially I'm on administrative leave. What it boils down to is house arrest." Paid house arrest. Kay earns $12.86 an hour, double time for holidays. He says he's requested a shift change A one that would allow him to go to the bank, for instance, or to get his muffler fixed A but has been turned down. So he pads around his home these days, looking for things to fix.