Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin had said he wasn’t going to get much sleep Tuesday night.
He was anxious going into Wednesday’s vote, where his colleagues on the commission would decide whether to allow him to apply for a job with the city’s police department.
Wednesday night, he stepped away from the dais before the rest of the commission unanimously voted to give him a waiver freeing him from the constraint of a city ordinance passed to prevent this sort of move. The ordinance has a provision giving the commission the power to give a waiver should it be in the public interest.
With Tobin recusing himself, six commissioners felt it was.
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“It feels good,” Tobin said. “I won’t let them down.”
The change paves the way for Tobin, 52, whose second term as a commissioner ends in November 2015, to chase his lifelong dream of being a beat cop walking the streets in Miami Beach. He’s expressed his interest in police work for much of his life, spending his teenage years in the Miami Beach Police Explorers and completing the police academy in 2011 while he was a commissioner.
Tobin will not resign before applying. The ordinance does not require him to quit before submitting his application. He plans on leaving if he gets the job.
The situation is an unusual instance where a city commissioner, who oversees the city’s top administrators, wants to step down to be an entry-level beat cop, where command staff and the police chief would be his bosses.
Jan Jacobowitz, director of the professional responsibility and ethics program at University of Miami School of Law, told the Miami Herald on Wednesday the current process could cause one to question whether it looks right for a sitting commissioner to apply for a police job.
“The better process would be to request the waiver, resign and then apply for the job,” she said. “That’s with the understanding that [Tobin] has put the issue front and center in the public’s mind so that there will be scrutiny over whether he would receive special treatment from the police department. I’m not suggesting that he would, but we’re talking about public perception here.”
On Tuesday, Police Chief Dan Oates said Tobin would get evaluated like any other candidate applying to join the force.
Wednesday night, Commissioner Micky Steinberg suggested strengthening the ordinance in the future to further eliminate any appearance of impropriety.
“I suggested strengthening it by adding an amendment that would require any elected official to submit his or her resignation before applying for any city position,” she said after the meeting.
Should Tobin leave for a job with the police, the commission would have to either appoint a new commissioner or hold a special election for someone to serve through the end of Tobin’s term.
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