Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida and Europe, especially the UK and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"Dial M for Magill" -and mendacity! Hallandale Beach Police Chief Thomas Magill apparently used lots of city resources and personnel to try to frame & imprison two innocent people -cops!- to impress his bosses at HB City Hall. So why was that allowed to happen, why was nobody punished and when will citizens find out how many hundreds of thousands of dollars Magill's illegal & criminal actions cost them? Don't hold your breath waiting for the South Florida press corps to find out!

My comments follow the excellent Sun-Sentinel article by John Holland from ten weeks ago.

As you read this, though, ask yourself, what's more shocking?

a.) That "Dial M for Magill" happened at all,
b.) South Florida media's gross indifference of story, or
c.) the City of Hallandale Beach's whistling-past-the-graveyard approach since the story was made public in the story below?
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http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/broward/sfl-flbhallandale0128sbjan28,0,2207842.story

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Hallandale to pay to settle one of two former police officers' lawsuits
By John Holland
January 28, 2008

HALLANDALE BEACH - City commissioners have agreed to pay more than $100,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging Police Chief Thomas Magill falsified evidence, a city board held an illegal meeting and detectives persuaded a felon to lie under oath about a fellow officer.

Mayor Joe Cooper and attorney Alberto Milian, who represents former Hallandale Beach
Police Officer Talous Cirilo, confirmed the city's settlement with Cirilo but would not comment further, citing a confidentiality agreement. However, Cooper said the payment was more than $100,000, including attorney fees.

"I'd love to talk about this and tell people what happened, but unfortunately I can't," Cooper said.

Magill referred questions to City Attorney David Jove, who could not be reached for comment.

The settlement comes less than two months after Cirilo filed two lawsuits against the city, alleging wrongdoing in the department and City Hall. Hallandale officials fired Cirilo, alleging excessive use of force, even though a jury acquitted him on battery charges.

Cooper said the secrecy is warranted because a separate lawsuit, filed in federal court by former acting Police Sgt. Mary Hagopian, has not been settled. She promised to speak about the settlement at a later date "if I'm allowed to."

Magill and City Manager Mike Good fired the officers two years ago after prosecutors charged them with misdemeanor battery on prisoner Michael Brack. Early on April 1, 2005, Brack beat his brother as they fought in a moving car, then attacked officers who tried to intervene, according to arrest records and police reports.

Months after the arrest, a civilian employee said Cirilo choked and used a Taser device excessively on Brack.

More than a year later, the State Attorney's Office charged Cirilo with three misdemeanor battery counts. Hagopian was charged with a misdemeanor for using the stun gun on Brack as he struggled with officers in a jail holding area.

Defense lawyers said Magill orchestrated the charges as part of a vendetta against Hagopian and to show his bosses at City Hall he was a disciplinarian. Testimony at trial showed police employees mishandled two key pieces of evidence — a video surveillance tape and software from the Taser — distorting the confrontation between the officers and Brack, defense lawyers argued.

Prosecutors tried the officers separately, but jurors reached the same conclusion, acquitting them after about 15 minutes of deliberation.

After the acquittals, the officers tried to get their jobs back, but Magill and city officials refused.

In one of the lawsuits, Milian accused the city civil service board of holding an illegal meeting outside City Hall on Oct. 9, 2007, one week before a scheduled hearing on the reinstatement.

Florida law mandates that all meetings be advertised and prohibits public officials from meeting out of the public eye or discussing cases with each other. At least six board members met and discussed the meeting in a "knowing violation" of the law, according to the lawsuit.

Good, the city manager, could not be reached for comment.

Hagopian, a 15-year veteran, and Cirilo, on the force for five years, hired different lawyers and filed in different jurisdictions but made the same argument: Magill pressured his internal affairs officers and detectives to manipulate evidence and coerce false statements out of Brack so he could fire the officers and enhance his image as a reformer.

Magill used public money to have officers track down Brack on a Louisiana oil barge, where he ended up after leaving Broward County and forfeiting his bail, both lawsuits assert.

The State Attorney's office dropped all the assault charges against Brack, including the attack on his brother, then used him to testify against the officers.

The chief temporarily assigned several officers to internal affairs without any training, for the sole purpose of building a false case against the officers, Hagopian's lawyer Rhea Grossman said in court papers.

Magill sparked criminal charges against Hagopian "by preparing directly or at his direction police reports containing false or misleading information," Grossman wrote. Both lawsuits contend Magill elicited false testimony and compiled misleading evidence that he took directly to prosecutors.

U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch tossed out four counts last month, saying they belong in state court. He refused to dismiss two others, including one alleging Magill presented false information to prosecutors so Hagopian would be arrested. Zloch also let stand a charge that the city had a policy of not training internal affairs officers that, Hagopian argued, "encourages fabricated evidence for the sole purpose of allowing the whims of its police chief to terminate employees."

Milian said last week that the jury's quick acquittals proved the charges were bogus.

"This case was an abomination from the very beginning, and good officers were hurt," Milian said. "It could ultimately have a chilling effect on officers who want to protect themselves and their colleagues but are afraid because they could get in the same type of situation."
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Reader comments to the article are at:
http://www.topix.net/forum/source/south-florida-sun-sentinel/TFKNF9QNQ3I7NHLQE

After reading this thorough John Holland story in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel from ten weeks ago, perhaps you'll have a slightly better appreciation of exactly what I'm up against, at times, in trying to shed some sunshine on the city's activities and the crazy antics I've observed here, largely self-evident, that've been going on in Hallandale Beach ever since I returned to South Florida from the Washington, D.C. area, four years ago.
I've had a few unpleasant encounters with Police Chief Thomas Magill myself, who can usually be found with his trademark camera slung around his neck at most public events -and with a rather smug look on his face when city residents asks questions he can't genuflect.

For months I've considered filing a complaint with the FDLE against Magill and Captain Robert Rodgers because of their open and vocal hostility and very unprofessional attitude towards me last June 30th.


I was trying to get access to some very basic public information that I and any other resident was entitled to get at the Police Dept. HQ last June 30th.
Fortunately for me, their actions were all caught on their own closed-circuit camera in the lobby.
The Saturday afternoon I stopped by the Police Dept. HQ's lobby, after being at the library next door for a few hours, it was to get some contact info for the Dept.'s Public Information Officer (PIO), so I could send an email about some concerns of mine.

Mostly about what I and some other HB residents felt were the completely unsatisfactory policies that caused the police to NEVER patrol or make an appearance at the beach, even on busy three-day holiday weekends, as I've written here many times.


The life guards could have told you as much.

My trip was all for naught, since, typically, that information not only WASN'T available on the city's website, but there was also no business cards of whomever the PIO was, nor was there a Police Dept. organizational chart with that info on it.


I didn't actually need to talk to him or her, just get their contact info.

The police officer behind the desk tried her best but she couldn't find any business cards, any Police Dept. organizational chart, no nothing.

I was not surprised.


What did surprise me, though, was that a minute later, Capt. Rodgers and Chief Magill both came out into the lobby, and after I explained why I was there, and they were unable to come up with the information either, Rodgers started asking me if I was "that guy who kept hassling" him the previous year.


I told him that, to be honest, at that very moment in the lobby, it was only the second time I'd ever seen him, so no, he was clearly mistaking me for someone else.
Then, since he was the person directly in charge of the accreditation program, and since that was what they were celebrating that afternoon, I asked when the report would be made public.


And would it include, as these sorts of reports usually do, list suggestions for areas where the city might want to consider changing their current procedures to be more effective?
Unfortunately, Capt. Rodgers wasn't interested in answering my simple questions so much as he was interested in trying to intimidate me, so he got right in my face and told me that I was "breaking his balls" about 6-8 times over the next few minutes.

I was dumbfounded, since that seemed like a perfectly simple question for the one person in city government most likely to know the actual answer, but I fatally mis-judged their level of professionalism.
After a few minutes of this crazy verbal abuse from Capt. Rodgers -which I won't repeat here- I walked over to Chief Magill, who'd been watching all this from no more than 5-6 feet away, with his trusty camera, of course, right near the door into the dept. itself.

I asked him directly if he considered this behavior by Capt. Rodgers towards me to be appropriate for someone in his police dept., considering that I hadn't asked for him to come out into the lobby in the first place, and had merely come by for some simple public information which should've been readily available in the Hallandale Beach Police Dept.'s HQ.

Well, I'm hardly ruining the story by telling you that Chief Magill exhibited all the qualities you wouldn't want to see in a law enforcement supervisor, since he was about as thoughtful and concerned as a bump on a log.

It was the sort of attitude you'd expect to find in a speed trap of a burg when you're travelling thru North Carolina in the '50's with a New York license plate.But it's not Mayberry, you're not Danny Thomas and Chief Magill is most assuredly NOT the fair-minded and helpful Sheriff Andy Taylor.

Some people have asked me why I expect something different from a city that's so backward that there's NOT a single directional sign in the city pointing in the direction of either the City Hall or Police Dept., whether on U.S.-1 or Hallandale Beach Blvd, much less the intersection of the two -THE BIGGEST INTERSECTION IN THE CITY.
The answer is because I don't have to accept half-assed government as the norm.

A Miami Herald reporter I know told me recently that among those in the know -which, wait for it, is no doubt a small club indeed!- there's a great deal of embarrassment that the Herald STILL hasn't written anything about this story, nor have their smug columnists.

Even ten weeks after the South Florida Sun-Sentinel ran with the ball.
Granted, it's not a scoop, per se, since the City Commission had to vote on the settlement,
n'est-ce que pas, but still, nothing at the Herald or on local TV?

You'd think that a story that has a police chief found to have repeatedly lied, likely conspired to frame officers in his dept., a city that convened illegal meetings, used improperly trained internal affairs officers, police detectives committing fraud.... and the city only having to pay $100K-plus, would merit some attention.


And what happened to the people on that advisory board that held that illegal meeting?

What are their names and how were they punished?
At a minimum, were they kicked off the advisory board and suspended for a year from serving on any city board?

They broke the law!
When exactly are Mayor Cooper, City Manager Mike Good and City Attorney David Jove going to answer those simple questions in public?
And why won't anyone on the City Commission even ask those questions?
This is yet another shining example of the Miami Herald's crimes of omission, and local TV reporters continuing to largely swim in the shallow end of the pool.

So much for investigatory zeal!

Perhaps the U-M student newspaper will do an investigation, he said with a sigh.


They're probably not too proud to ask hard questions.
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Oh, and one last thing in the way of full disclosure.
Not that it matters, per se, but my father was in Dade County law enforcement for well over 25 years, proving time and again to be one of the best marksman in the entire county.

That's why, despite it not being part of his regular job description, he was continually asked to be a firearms instructor, and someone that people sought out.

The night of the Arthur McDuffie riots which resulted from the absurd jury verdict in Tampa, because of the emergency edict, I drove him downtown to the Civic Center late at night when he was called into action.

Once there, I was given something akin to a pass by his commanding officer to show any police who might try to pull me over for driving during the curfew, since by the time I got back on north-bound I-95, it was well past midnight.
By then, you could not only see the fires near various expressway exits, you could hear the explosions and gun fire all over the place.

For a number of years, my father also served on the Dade County PBA's Board of Directors, and was involved in everything from helping make political endorsements, to hearing PBA members and deciding who was entitled to PBA legal representation.


That's part of the bias I bring to this blog.

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