Recorded exchange discussing current mayoral candidate and ex police union head’s alleged cocaine use
On March 6, 2018, a motorist was pulled over by Homestead police for swerving into oncoming traffic. The officer discovered illegal drugs in the car. The driver was taken to the station for booking, where, according to police, he offered up a “bigger fish.”
The man then confided to a detective about his gig as a longtime friend’s regular drug dealer. Whenever the friend, a “habitual cocaine user,” wanted to score an “eight ball” of the drug, the man would be summoned, issued an ATM card and dispatched into the night to withdraw cash and make the buy.
The friend with the alleged cocaine craving was Steve Shiver, the city’s former — and maybe future — mayor. Shiver showed up at City Hall on Monday to file paperwork to open a campaign.
One day later, City Manager George Gretsas issued an extraordinary 109-page memo to the City Commission. Filled with exhibits, it described in detail the city’s narcotics investigation into the newly minted mayoral candidate, a fixture in Miami-Dade power circles who has served stints as county manager, Opa-locka city manager, and was until a month ago the executive director of Miami-Dade’s largest police union.
The drug case was closed without charges against Shiver, the memo stated, after the driver-turned-informant offered to set up a sting — only to betray his handlers and confess to Shiver that he had been flipped by city detectives.
The memo, which described the initial interaction with the informant, said two other criminal investigations of Shiver, neither one described, are ongoing.
For Homestead, which has seen one ex-mayor imprisoned for corruption and another busted for assisting in a pot smuggling scheme, it promises to be another lively political season.
Through his attorney, Rick Yabor, Shiver described Gretsas’ memo as a politically motivated attack that was sent to council members the day after Shiver filed to run for mayor — although internal records show the document was prepared weeks earlier.
“This memo, which can only be characterized as a direct campaign attack against Mr. Shiver, was apparently prepared using city resources and funds,” Yabor wrote in a letter emailed to the Miami Herald Wednesday afternoon. “Mr. Shiver will be taking appropriate steps to address the improper use of taxpayer money to initiate personal campaign attacks.”
“Mr. Shiver categorically denies each and every statement created by Mr. Gretsas” in the memo, Yabor wrote, adding that if Gretsas and “certain employees within the Homestead Police Department had any sort of legal training, they would know that in this country, at least for now, a person is innocent until proven guilty.”
Yabor questioned how Gretsas, “a mere city manager,” would be privy to two ongoing criminal investigations, saying such information “is not within the purview of the city manager.”
Under the city charter, the police department does in fact fall under the supervision of the city manager.
“This memo,” Yabor wrote, “is merely an attempt to discredit and defame my client, as Mr. Gretsas deflects attention from the real issues that face the city of Homestead.” He added: “The culture of fear and intimidation created by Mr. Gretsas will end when Mr. Shiver is elected mayor this coming election.”
The memo, which includes audio and photos, addressed only the closed drug case. It quotes the informant saying that Shiver “has been a habitual cocaine user” who has purchased drugs from various dealers in South Miami-Dade.
Law enforcement sources have told the Miami Herald that one of the two open cases involves Shiver’s relationship with Janet LeGrand, a woman who was arrested in 2017 for using a bogus engineering firm — its credentials and past projects were made up — to try to trick the city into giving her a $33.3 million construction contract. Later, Shiver lobbied on her behalf to get a similar deal approved in Florida City, where his father is on the city commission.
LeGrand awaits trial.
Gretsas said the documents were released to City Council members in response to Shiver’s accusations that he had been the target of “improper policing” by the Homestead Police Department.
“The city owed it to Homestead police detectives to respond to Mr. Shiver’s attacks on them,” Zackery Good, a city spokesman, told the Herald. “Their work on this case was professional, thorough, and appropriate, given the circumstances. The narcotics investigation would never have been initiated if Shiver’s friend hadn’t reported him to the police, claiming that he regularly delivers cocaine to Shiver’s home.”
At the time he was under investigation for drug use, Shiver was serving as executive director of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association. He resigned in May, hours after the Miami Herald posted a story on Shiver’s recent bankruptcy. The story raised questions about his troubled business dealings, unpaid debts and connections to individuals with criminal records.
The former Miami-Dade County manager has had a wild ride since leaving the county government in June 2003. He tried to resurrect a North Carolina theme park, Ghost Town in the Sky, only to see part of it burst through a retaining wall and slide down a steep mountain slope, causing havoc at lower altitude. A Georgia land development he spearheaded went bust. And he’s filed for bankruptcy twice, most recently in 2017, when he listed personal debts of more than $8 million.
Despite his problematic finances and ongoing investigations, Shiver retains considerable popularity in Homestead, where he grew up. His father is a longtime businessman, operating a glass dealership, in addition to serving for decades on the commission in Florida City.
Homestead police redacted the name of the man whose tip initiated the probe in order to protect his identity, city attorneys said.
On March 6, 2018, the day he was stopped for erratic driving, the informant described what he claimed was the usual method of payment when his “bigger fish” wanted cocaine: Shiver would deposit cash in an account he shared with the informant. The informant would withdraw the cash, consummate the drug deal and deliver the cocaine to Shiver’s house, keeping a portion of the money for himself, he told police. On other occasions, Shiver would buy cocaine from other dealers, and the informant named them, too.
“I need an eight ball of cocaine,” Shiver would typically say, according to a recorded interview, referring to 3.5 grams of the powder, about $200 worth on the street. “I put money on the card.” He noted that “Shiver would provide him with an ATM card with instructions to withdraw the amount of money needed to purchase the cocaine.”
“Shiver’s bank records frequently show repeated withdrawals of amounts ranging between $100 and $400, sometimes occurring on the same day,” the memo said. “Withdrawals would often happen during late-night hours on weeknights, including multiple withdrawals on the same day from the same location, sometimes just minutes apart. More than half of the withdrawals occurred between midnight and 6 a.m.”
Shiver’s frequent withdrawals — many of them precisely $200 in cash, plus the surcharge — were a source of curiosity during a September 2018 deposition he gave to a bankruptcy trustee. “So, why the consistent cash withdrawals, as opposed to just buying things with [a] debit card when you need them?” the trustee asked Shiver. “Just judgment. Bad judgment, I guess,” he replied.
Shiver’s last cocaine buy through him was the day the former mayor was appointed to the PBA position in January 2018, the informant told detectives.
The informant suggested detectives stage an undercover buy that might seal the deal on an arrest. “Next time Shiver calls me, I will call you, and when I deliver to his door, you can bum rush him,” the informant told a detective, according to the memo.
But the case fell apart when the informant turned double-agent; the source informed on himself to Shiver, ending the investigation. The informant eventually pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and was placed on probation.
The informant, who said he’s been friends with Shiver for a decade, was asked about Shiver’s long-term plans.
Detective: “What’s his end game? What’s he want to do?”
Informant: “...when [Florida City’s current mayor] Otis [Wallace] retires, he wants to locate to Florida City and run for mayor.” Florida City has a strong-mayor form of government.
Questions about Shiver and drug use have been raised as far back as 2001. In an article written in Miami New Times by Jim DeFede, he asked if Shiver, the surprise pick for county manager, had used any illegal drugs in the past few years.
“I’m not going to go into that,” Shiver replied. “We’ve got too much work at hand.”
An earlier New Times article said Shiver stalled before taking a drug test after being hired. After Shiver did take the test, he refused to release the results, despite previously promising to do so.
And in 2008, Shiver was pulled over by an officer in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, where he had been renovating a Western-themed amusement park. Shiver was arrested at the scene, where an officer described his eyes as being “bloodshot and glassy looking.”
“When he spoke to me, his speech was very slurred. I observed that he was very unsteady,” the officer wrote, adding that Shiver also was not able to stand on one leg. “He was very unsteady and swaying back and forth,” the officer wrote.
“You got me,” Shiver said, before asking to speak to the police chief.
The charges were eventually dropped.