Longtime Hialeah firefighter and president of the firefighters’ union, Eric Johnson, filed a lawsuit on Monday against the city and its mayor, Carlos Hernández, alleging that he has faced retaliation for reporting acts of misconduct and malfeasance in the city government.
According to the complaint, official “misconduct” in Miami-Dade county’s second most populous city included voter fraud, absentee ballot fraud, illegal campaign contributions, violation of union agreements, and violations of the city charter, Florida’s Sunshine Law, and federal, state and local anti-corruption laws.
Johnson claims he filed official complaints with the FBI, State Attorney’s Office, Hialeah Police, Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and cooperated with various law enforcement investigations. According to the lawsuit, Johnson’s actions resulted in multiple suspensions without pay, punitive transfers, adverse work assignments, and “deprivation of his right to act as union president.”
“It is shameful to report governmental abuse and then become the one abused for merely doing what’s right,” Johnson said through his attorney. “A government or elected leaders without checks and balances does not resemble the democracy this nation was founded on.”
The lawsuit seeks damages exceeding $1 million, that would include back pay, compensation for loss of future earnings and attorneys fees.
Johnson’s lawsuit named only one individual — Hernández — who has served on the city commission since 2005 after a career serving the city as police officer. In the complaint, Johnson called Hernández’s conduct toward him “so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.” The complaint does not elaborate on Hernandez’s alleged role in the retaliation or misconduct.
In the past, Hernández has previously been investigated over allegations that he and his political operatives were shaking down local businesses, though ultimately no charges were brought in the case.
Johnson has been calling out the city government under Hernández publicly for years. In 2018, Johnson spoke out against the commission’s decision to purchase a 2017 Jaguar SUV for Hernández at the same time that the city was planning to raise property taxes. At the time, Hernández defended the move saying the vehicle would replace his old 2010 Ford.
“I had a vehicle since 2012, with 80,000 miles of use,” Hernández told the Miami Herald. He claimed the criticism at the time was politically motivated.
Neither the city attorney nor Hernandez responded to the Miami Herald’s request for comment.