Some have been promoted. Others have been punished. But make no mistake about the changes going on at Hialeah City Hall and in the city police department: The political payback and retaliation has begun with employees who were involved in the city's mayoral and council elections last month.
Those who supported and helped su alcaldito Carlos Hernandez are getting rewarded. Those who supported and helped former mayor Raul Martinez, who lost in a runoff Nov. 15, are the butt of the retribution. In Spanish, this is called un pasado de cuentas. In English, it's a settling of accounts.
Among those who have been spanked are three veteran police officers who have dedicated their lives to this community:
Commander Urbano Dieppa was busted down to sergeant after Hernandez saw he gave $100 to both his campaign and the Martinez campaign. He had been solicited for a contribution by Hernandez but expressed fear of retaliation if Martinez won. So another officer suggested he make the same donation to both candidates. That drew su alcaldito's ire. Rather than take the obvious political demotion in stride, Dieppa chose to take early retirement after Hernandez allegedly told him "You are either with me or you are against me.
Detective Sgt. Barbara Ricano, who is months from retirement and was a regular staple at the Martinez campaign office, was transferred to patrol as soon as the elections were over. Ricano, photographed here as she worked the first round of early voting at JFK Library, has not been on the road for more than a decade and has never been a patrol sergeant, which could be a safety issue to her and to other officers on that shift. And while the city may try to justify the move by saying that they are trying to crack down on patrol overtime, other officers beneath her rank have kept their desk jobs and juicy task force assignments.
Det. Ricky Garcia, whose organized fraud investigations have netted dozens, if not hundreds, of insurance scam artists and made headlines -- as well as secured a bunch of borrowed unmarked cars for the department from insurance companies only too happy with his work -- was transferred to patrol this week. There was no other reason to demote this 2009-2010 Investigator of the Year except that he was vocal about his support of Martinez. Here he is photographed with other Martinez supporters, some of whom may still feel su alcaldito's wrath. Garcia, who is currently working several cases and had gone in on his day off to write some arrest reports because he loves his job, was not given a reason or even a head's up. He simply found the tranfer paperwork in his mailbox. His commanding officers didn't even know about the decision -- which shows it was made from the top.
It is obvious political retaliation against those who dared to be independent and exercise their constitutional rights. And there may be a class action lawsuit here.
But let's take a moment to juxtapose those against the rewards to others for their political choices.
And then there is Hialeah Police Commander Sergio Velasquez, known inside the city as Hernandez's chief enforcer and Godfather in the santeria religion, who was promoted to deputy chief despite holding the rank of sergeant. Forget about the fact that he is hardly qualified for that position, or that his history at the department has been full of questionable actions that have been investigated or covered up. Forget the fact that he made retaliatory investigations to further his career. Forget about the fact that he registered for college classes last week so he could qualify for the job. Those things don't matter because he is su alcaldito's friend and mentor. Police Chief Abuser Mark Overton, who Ladra heard has already one foot out the door to a position in Miami Beach (more on that later), told a reporter that the promotion was directly ordered by Hernandez.
Read that again: Directly ordered. Now why does the mayor of the city direct the police department's personnel moves? I understand he may have to approve them, but that would only happen if the changes came via the normal, administrative process for these types of transfers. But they don't. They come the other way. Which means they are political payback.
And the ones who will end up paying the ultimate price are the residents and business owners in the City of Retrogress.