1. #1
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    Post Miami Fla--Miami-Dade Fire Chief Cleared in Ethics Case

    Miami Herald

    Probe clears fire chief
    Homework case sent to ethics office
    BY KARL ROSS
    kross@herald.com

    State prosecutors on Thursday cleared Miami-Dade Fire Chief Charles Phillips of criminal wrongdoing after reviewing the findings of a police inquiry into allegations he required an assistant do his homework on taxpayer time.

    Sarah Hartfield, Phillips' executive assistant, says she spent much of the past six months doing his work toward a doctoral degree in ''global leadership.'' She claims at least $10,000 worth of her salary was wasted in the process.

    ''While Ms. Hartfield probably did schoolwork for Chief Phillips, there is no witness to state that this was done on a regular basis,'' the report by the Miami-Dade state attorney's office said. ``To the contrary, most of the persons who Ms. Hartfield told investigators had seen her doing course work for Phillips stated they did not see this.''

    Hartfield also alleges Phillips made repeated unwanted sexual advances toward her, plotting to turn out-of-town trips for professional firefighters' conferences into romantic interludes.

    Without elaborating, the report says the sexual misconduct allegations ``appeared to be noncriminal in nature.''

    ETHICS REVIEW

    Prosecutors say Hartfield's allegations on both matters were referred to county ethics investigators for further review.

    ''There's some real holes in her story, though we certainly took it very seriously,'' said Assistant State Attorney Joseph Centorino, chief of the office's public corruption division.

    `WORK ACTIVITY'

    Prosecutors say there was ''no appreciable drop in work activity'' by Hartfield as a result of any time spent on Phillips' academic assignments. They also contend much of her time was spent doing personal business on the Internet.

    Phillips reiterated through his lawyer, Norman Powell, that he has done nothing improper. A 29-year veteran firefighter, Phillips was selected as the county's first black fire chief in late 2001.

    ''Whatever assistance Ms. Hartfield provided to the fire chief with respect to class work was voluntary and it did not alleviate the necessity for him to complete the class work personally,'' Powell said in a prepared statement.

    Powell also provided a copy of a lie detector test in which the examiner concludes Phillips was truthful when denying Hartfield's allegations. Phillips paid for the test himself, Powell said.

    REMAIN ON LEAVE

    County Manager Steve Shiver said Phillips would remain on paid administrative leave until his office had reviewed the findings. He noted an administrative inquiry continues.

    Shiver placed Phillips on leave last month and requested an investigation by the county police department's internal affairs bureau after Hartfield's husband, Gary -- an administrative assistant to Shiver -- asked him to intercede.

    Sarah Hartfield on Thursday expressed disbelief at the state attorney's close-out report. She said she did some banking and other errands online, but said this did not interfere with her work.

    ``They grasped at everything they possibly could to discredit me, and that's the best they could do? That I went on the Internet?''

    Hartfield said she got an ''outstanding'' evaluation on May 7, and showed The Herald several e-mails from co-workers praising her efforts on behalf of the agency.

    She accused State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle of letting politics influence the decision not to prosecute.

    ''I will let people know how the state attorney's office swept all this under the rug in order to get black votes,'' said Hartfield, who is black. ``I'm not going to take this without a fight.''

    She was referring to Fernandez-Rundle's upcoming campaign to be reelected as state attorney in 2004.

    A spokesman for Fernandez-Rundle declined to respond to Hartfield's allegations, saying the close-out report raises questions about her credibility.

    Hartfield said she did all of the course work for four of the five classes Phillips took through a part-time doctoral program at Lynn University.

    She challenged Phillips' claim he did all of his course work personally, saying he was in Hong Kong and the Dominican Republic on official business at the time she researched and wrote some of his assignments.

    Hartfield, who has a master's degree in public administration, said Phillips enrolled after she did last September. Shortly after classes began, he asked her to help.

    'He was like, `You got to help me.' I said, 'Sure, no problem' because my concept of helping someone is not doing all their work. But I came to realize he wanted me to do everything.''

    DROPS OUT

    Hartfield, 37, said she dropped out of the program after the first eight-week course, thinking he would stop insisting she do his homework.

    She said that Phillips remained in the program and continued to pass along his assignments.

    It got to the point, she said, that she was doing his papers late at night at her home. When she told Phillips her husband had forbidden her from doing the work at their home, she says he told her: ``Just do it here.''

    Hartfield said she took to locking herself in her office to complete his assignments, estimating it consumed a month and a half of her working hours. She earns $45 an hour as Phillips' administrative assistant, she said.

    She said she decided to make a formal complaint after Phillip's alleged sexual advances began to disrupt her home life.

    Hartfield said the breaking point came during a conference in Fort Lauderdale last April for black public administrators.

    She said her husband, Gary, and Phillips both attended the event.

    That night, after Phillips and her husband shared drinks, she said Phillips called to invite her to spend the night with him at the hotel.

    'I figured I had no choice. I had to tell Gary. He cried that night. He said, `I cannot believe you let that man cozy up to me and not tell me about it.' He was ready to commit blue murder.''

    She said her husband wanted to discuss the matter the following day with his supervisor, Assistant County Manager Tony Crapp Jr., but Phillips was in his office when he tried to see him.

    'Gary saw Steve Shiver in the hallway and said, `You've got to help me, to keep me from doing anything.' ''
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  2. #2
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    Post Update: Dispute Continues

    Miami Herald

    Deputy: Chief's homework aid illegal
    BY KARL ROSS
    kross@herald.com

    A senior county fire-rescue official urged an aide to Fire Chief Charles Phillips to stop doing the chief's assignments for a night-school doctoral program and report him to authorities because he thought it was illegal, according to a police investigative report obtained by The Herald on Monday.

    In a sworn statement, Assistant Chief Joseph Pryor of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department is quoted as telling the aide: ``You're doing this on county time and he's given you a directive to do it. You need to report him.''

    ASSISTANT WORKED

    Pryor told investigators he never observed Phillips doing any course work but had seen executive assistant Sarah Hartfield doing assignments in the chief's office. He said it was clear she was doing Phillips' work ``because she was no longer enrolled in the program.''

    Hartfield alleges that Phillips required her to do the homework -- a charge denied by Phillips, who says any assistance she provided was voluntary. A Miami-Dade state attorney's office report on June 5, based on an early version of the police investigative findings on Hartfield's complaint, cleared Phillips of criminal wrongdoing.

    Among the police report's other findings:

    A 49-page research paper was done on Phillips' county-issued laptop computer at a time when he was in Hong Kong on official business. Phillips told investigators he did not take the laptop with him on the trip, yet said he did the work.

    A former county fire board member, Teresa Everett, accused Phillips of plagiarizing a paper she wrote and submitting it to the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md. Both papers were titled ''Firefighter Recruitment and Selection,'' and Everett said she gave a copy of her work to Phillips at his request.

    A female fire-rescue employee, Teresa Tojeiro, complained in 1997 to the agency's then-chief, David Paulison, that Phillips made repeated ''unwelcome'' advances at her at a retirement party. She said Phillips later apologized but took to mocking her by making ''sarcastic facial expressions'' in her presence.

    Pryor, on one occasion, overheard Phillips make ''an inappropriate comment'' to Hartfield, inviting her to visit his hotel room while at a conference in Fort Lauderdale. He said he overhead the remark on Hartfield's speaker phone.

    NO CRIMINAL CHARGES

    Assistant State Attorney Joseph Centorino said Monday that his office's close-out report ''does not exonerate Phillips,'' though it recommended against filing criminal charges, for lack of evidence.

    ''We certainly anticipated this raised a serious ethical issue,'' Centorino said. ``The issue was whether it reached the standard where you could make a criminal case.''

    Centorino said his office was not aware of the 49-page research project on Phillips' laptop at the time it issued its opinion. He said charges could still be filed if there was ''new evidence'' of wrongdoing.

    Phillips' attorney, Norman Powell, played down the importance of Pryor's statement, claiming he was alone among fire-rescue employees interviewed in suspecting misconduct by his client.

    ''The police just write down what he said, and I know of no reason why he'd say that,'' Powell said.

    Powell also reiterated his client's position that -- while Hartfield did assist him with his homework -- it was done voluntarily and consisted mostly of editing and proofreading.

    Phillips was placed on paid administrative leave last month after Hartfield filed a formal complaint. Police internal affairs investigators looked into her allegations and have submitted their findings to County Manager George Burgess.

    Burgess is expected to determine whether Phillips will be disciplined. The case is also under review by the county's ethics commission.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  3. #3
    District Chief
    distchief60b's Avatar
    Join Date
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    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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