Ex-Miami-Dade police major suing county over firing

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

A former high-ranking Miami-Dade police officer is suing the county after he was fired for misappropriating payments to the department of almost $23,000 from Sun Life Stadium.

Tyrone White, the former major of the robbery and warrants bureaus, was fired in August after his investigators found he put the money in a bank account for his unofficial department flag football team.

In his lawsuit, White claims the investigation was “illegal” and he should not have been fired. The suit asks a judge to stop the termination.

White had been under investigation since September 2011, when the stadium realized that they mistakenly sent the major two checks totaling $22,734.23. The money was actually meant to go to the police department for off-duty security for Dolphins games and other events.

White, his defense attorney told The Miami Herald in 2011, had earlier solicited a charitable donation from the Dolphins to help defray the costs of uniforms, sports equipment and lodging for the team, which plays to benefit charitable groups.

When the major received the checks — made out to ‘Miami-Dade Police Department Football Coach: Tyrone White’ — he believed the team had fulfilled his request.

“We believe that Maj. White acted in good faith, and received money he requested of the Dolphins for a legitimate purpose: promoting the police department in the Police Olympics,” his lawyer said then.

White deposited the two checks into an account he controlled at the Dade County Financial Credit Union. The account was set up to manage the charity team’s finances.

He later hosted the second-annual “Miami-Dade Police and Fire Fallen Heroes Flag Football Tournament, “which benefited the families of slain officers.

Internal affairs detectives and Miami-Dade prosecutors opened up a criminal investigation as the police department demoted White to captain.

In May 2012, however, the state attorney’s office announced that it did not have enough evidence to file criminal charges against White.

The stadium, apparently, never demanded the return of the money, which meant there was no victim, according to a memo by prosecutor Johnette Hardiman.

And a lack of financial records meant tracking exactly how the money from the stadium was spent was impossible, the memo said.

But Miami-Dade police’s own internal investigation found that White should have known that the payments were not meant for his unofficial flag football team.

“The check amounts from Sun Life Stadium, coupled with your tenure as a seasoned police administrator, and your fundraising experience, should have alerted you to a possible mistake,” according to a discipline report.

His civil lawyer, Michael Braverman, said this month that the county took a “quantum leap in logic” in assuming White should have known the stadium money wasn’t supposed to go to him — especially because the checks were made out to him.

In 2011, his flag football organization held a tournament for two detectives killed in the line of duty. Afterward, White’s group donated $2,500 to a trust fund for relatives of slain officers.

“Tyrone White operated in the open. He never hid any of his activity and everybody was more than happy to accept the money generated by his charitable activities,” Braverman said.

The investigation also found that White routinely used his department computer to coordinate football team activities during work hours. He also used improperly used official letterhead to open his team’s bank account, the probe determined.

White, in his lawsuit, says that the county failed to complete the investigation within the 180 days mandated by law. The county is asking a Miami-Dade judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

No hearing date has been set.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

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