When Julio Rodríguez, a former candidate for the Hialeah City Council, was waiting his turn to speak at a council meeting in 2012, he was left almost speechless by the onslaught from former policeman Glenn Rice.
Rice, an ally of Mayor Carlos Hernández at the time, called him “a piece of garbage” and other insults.
Rice harassed Rodríguez several more times during council meetings, at a time when Rodriguez was pushing the mayor to fulfill his promise to televise the public meetings.
Rodríguez was not the only one that Rice harassed. He staged similar confrontations in 2012 and 2013 with several other political foes of Hernández, such as former Hialeah Mayor Raúl Martínez, former mayoral candidate Juan Santana and the president of the city’s firefighters union.
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Now, for the first time, Rice is alleging that those attacks were part of a scheme to monitor and harass political enemies orchestrated by Hernández soon after he was elected in November 2011. Rice said that his duties included spying on municipal department heads and digging into the backgrounds of the mayor's opponents.
Rice, who worked as a Hialeah police officer for 25 years, also claims that he did not take on those duties for free. Rice says Hernández persuaded two private companies that were seeking municipal contracts to hire him as a consultant. He showed el Nuevo Herald canceled checks and bank account statements with payments from the two companies.
“My real job was to be there for the mayor, to spy on his perceived political enemies,” he said. “My duty was to spy on city employees and political opponents, and report their actions back to the mayor.”
My real job was to be there for the mayor, to spy on his political enemies.
Glenn Rice, former Hialeah police officer
Hernández laughed when asked about Rice's statements.
“If I was going to find someone to intimidate people, do you think I would have looked for a clown like Glenn Rice?” he asked, categorically denying the allegations. “Everyone knows who Glenn Rice is. He is a chivato (political snitch), a liar, and now we have heard he's even a criminal.”
The mayor also said that Rice was never his ally or even a trusted member of his administration.
He is a political snitch, a liar, and now we know he's even a criminal.
Carlos Hernández, Hialeah mayor
Rice said the mayor's denials were ironic.
“So he trusted this clown with more than $300,000 of his money?” said Rice, referring to Citizens for Efficient Government, a political action committee that had up to $360,000 in its accounts and used the money primarily to finance Hernández's electoral campaigns. “He was the one who called me and instructed me to set up the PAC.”
Rice founded the PAC in January 2013 and remains its director.
The former policeman's surprising allegations came after a recent split in Hialeah politics that pits Hernández against council member Isis García-Martínez, who once was a Hernández ally but now is one of the mayor's most fiercest critics.
Rice said he decided to go public with his allegations after receiving word of allegedly threatening comments indicating that “the mayor was going to destroy me.” Before then, Rice had claimed that all of his work against the mayor's political opponents was “at his own initiative.”
Hernández said that Rice is trying to “play the victim” because he is under investigation for receiving payments, without municipal approval, from companies that bid for a Hialeah contract to privatize the garbage pickup service.
The state attorney’s office’s Public Corruption Unit and the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission investigated the companies' payments to Rice, according to documents released to el Nuevo Herald two weeks ago, following a public records request.
The investigation’s closeout memo indicates that Rice received at least $176,000 over three to four years from three companies that sought the municipal contract, for $40 million over eight years. According to the report, the investigation did not find that any Hialeah official recommended Rice to the companies.
Hernández declined to be interviewed by the investigators, according to documents dated in August.
The documents show that Hernández said he would agree to an interview only with Ethics Commission Executive Director Joe Centorino. Hernández clashed with Centorino last year over an ethics fine that the mayor tried to pay with 28 buckets full of pennies.
Rice, who is listed as a subject in the probe, told el Nuevo Herald that he was contacted some months back by investigators, but he refused to talk to them about the case.
“I am not a rat,” he said.
Rice said that the order to besiege people who were unfriendly to the Hernández administration led to the harassment of Julio Rodríguez, the former candidate for city council; Eric Johnson, vice president of the fireman’s labor union; former mayoral candidate Juan Santana; former municipal employee José Azze; and former Mayor Raúl Martínez.
All those incidents were reported by el Nuevo Herald in 2012 and 2013. Rice also repeatedly attacked Hialeah blogger Elaine De Valle during the municipal elections campaign in 2011.
In the incident involving Raúl Martínez, Rice arrived at the Maruch restaurant on Sept. 12, 2013, and started to video tape the former mayor meeting with Francisco Alvarado, then a reporter for the Miami New Times. That led to a confrontation during which Martínez accused Rice of being a “pedophile,” and “a man without a life and without a woman.” Rice called Martinez a “liar.”
Rice told el Nuevo Herald in a recent interview that he had received “a call from the mayor's office” telling him that Martínez was in the restaurant meeting with Johnson. The labor leader was in the restaurant, but at a different table. At the time, Hernández denied ordering Rice to harass his opponents and claimed the confrontation was “a problem between the two of them exclusively.”
Hernández and his chief of staff, Arnie Alonso, denied during an Oct. 11 interview that the mayor's office alerted Rice about the Martínez meeting.
Rice said that the mayor also directed him to spy on council member Vivian Casals-Muñoz, now an ally of Hernández, and that he staked out one of her campaign offices on West 68th Street. “The mayor wanted to know who went in and out of Vivian's office,” said Rice, adding that Hernández and Casals-Muñoz were not on the best of terms at the time. Hernández denied the allegation.
Documents obtained by el Nuevo Herald confirm that Rice received payments from Waste Pro and Waste Management, two companies that submitted losing bids for a contract to privatize the city's garbage pickup service.
He also received payments from a third company, International Management Consultants Inc. (IMC), which according to the state attorney’s office investigation, was run by Hermán Echevarría, a former Hialeah council member. Authorities say that Echevarría lobbied for Progressive Waste Solutions (PWS), the company that won the contract in 2015. The investigation’s report also shows that PWS officials denied knowing IMC had hired Rice.
Statements from one of Rice's bank accounts also show monthly deposits of $2,000 from Waste Pro. Rice said the company paid him a total of $72,000 from 2013 to 2015.
Rice also showed el Nuevo Herald copies of IMC checks issued to him, in amounts of $2,000, $6,000 and $4,000, for January, February and April of this year. The investigation’s report showed IMC paid Rice at least $76,000 starting in April 2012.
“I started to receive the monthly payments from these two companies (Waste Pro and IMC) shortly after the mayor won the elections in 2011,” said Rice. “I never filled out a job application with those companies. The mayor handled everything.”
IMC and Waste Pro did not respond to requests for comment.
A source in Waste Management who agreed to comment in exchange for anonymity said that the company hired Rice in early 2014. The financial investigation showed Rice received at least $30,000 from Waste Management.
“We saw that (Rice) was part of the mayor's inner circle, and we wanted to have someone who could give us information on the steps being taken on the bidding process,” the source said. “But the contract we signed made it very clear: no lobbying.”
Follow Enrique Flor and Brenda Medina on Twitter: @kikeflor y @BrendaMedinar