Orlando Martinez de Castro, South Miamis police chief, said all he wants is to retire honorably when his contract ends in three years. At 63, he planned to wrap up a 40-year law enforcement career, but the mayor may want him out sooner.
Mayor Philip Stoddards latest accusation is that the chief violated state rules when he authorized spending money confiscated from accused drug traffickers and convicted money launderers inappropriately and without approval.
The accusations come at a time when Martinez de Castro is contesting charges from the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust that while he worked for the city from 1998 to 2006, and from 2010 to the present he violated ethics laws for steering city business to companies his wife owned.
Martinez de Castro, a grandfather of 8, and his wife of 40 years have said they have abided by the law.
Now Stoddard is saying the chief is not abiding by the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, which says that seized funds must not be used for routine expenses.
In 2011, the city issued about $20,000 in payments to Lous Police Distributors for handguns, rifles, ammunition, repair services, binoculars, reserve officers uniforms and flashlights. Other expenses included about $17,000 to Enterprise Rent-A-Car for leasing undercover vehicles, and about $50,000 in technological upgrades, software, computers and supplies to Tigerdirect, Dell, International Data Consulting, USA Software, and Bar Codes Unlimited.
We believe that all expenditures have been consistent with the promulgated guidelines, state statutes, and the dictates of the Attorney Generals Office The funds were expended on items outside of the daily operations budget, Martinez de Castro said.
Martinez de Castro and Stoddard also disagree on their interpretation of a state law requiring commission approval of forfeiture fund expenditures.
City commissioners approved an overall allocation of funds to forfeiture expenditures when the annual budgets were adopted in September. In recent budgets, commissioners have more than doubled the funds available for expenditures in both state and federal forfeiture funds, because of increased earnings due to Martinez de Castros support of partnerships with other agencies. In 2010-11, commissioners approved $95,669; in 2011-12, $286,813; and in 2012-13, $772,657.
Florida statutes require commission approval before the city issues payment and the chief must provide written certification that it complies with the law, said city attorney Thomas Pepe. Stoddard was concerned when records showed that two expenses in 2010, 15 expenses in 2011, and one expense in 2012 lacked a resolution approving the specific expenses. This included a $525 payment to one of Ileana Martinez de Castros companies, Airways Auto Tag, in 2011.
The accounts used were approved by the commission during regular meetings and during the budget cycle, Chief Martinez de Castro said.
To many of Martinez de Castros supporters, Stoddard is on a mission to get a new chief in town, and he doesnt want to have to pay off the chiefs contract. Already, terminating the former city manager has cost the city at least $80,000 in consultant pay. Paying-off the chiefs contract would cost the city at least $360,000.
Meanwhile, the attacks in the City of Pleasant Living are relentless. At recent public meetings, Commissioners Bob Welsh and Walter Harris have been supportive of the mayor. And Commissioners Valerie Newman and Joshua Liebman have been on the chiefs side.
To add to the Martinez de Castro familys burden, his opponents have found an ally in Mazyer Mike Hatami, a Coral Gables businessman and father who has been writing the Straw Buyers blog in his spare time since 2008. Hatami was the first to link the tag agency transactions to South Miamis police department earlier this year, as he reported on a criminal case involving a few of the tag agency employees.
On Friday, Hatami wrote in his blog: Have you noticed how much weight the chief has lost? Youll never guess who footed the bill for his bariatric surgery. After the insurance company denied coverage for the procedure, records show Martinez de Castro borrowed about $10,000 earlier this year from the city as part of a health care payment account to cover part of the cost of the surgery, which he has been paying the city back in installments.
He bleeds blue, Maj. Rene Landa said. He has been a cop all his life and he loves being a cop. He was one of the greatest investigators in the City of Miami. If you were a bad guy, he was going to get you. At the end of the day, those who know him well know, he is a good cop.
Stoddard remains unconvinced.