HOUSTON (KIAH) – Former Houston police chief Art Acevedo is suing his former employer, the city of Miami and its city commissioners, saying his public firing as the chief of Miami police three months ago was in retaliation for him speaking out against corruption.
Acevedo was only police chief in Miami for six-months after moving to Florida from Houston. During that short tenure he was suspended and then fired after three raucous meetings, in which he says he was “purposefully humiliated” and fired for reporting abuses of power by elected officials.
The complaint, filed in federal court Wednesday, says a memo sent to the mayor and city manager accusing several commissioners of hampering his reform and meddling in the police department should have been protected by the First Amendment, but instead cost him his job. The suit says Acevedo’s firing was in violation of Florida Whistle-blower’s Act, which protects employees against retaliatory actions for reporting abuses of power.
The complaint says that Acevedo was concerned two commissioners were trying to send police for code enforcement to specific bars and restaurants owned by a man who had supported a political opponent.
He attempted “to push back on attempts by certain City of Miami Commissioners to use the men, women, and resources of the MPD to carry out their personal agendas and use the (Miami Police Department) as their puppet,” the complaint states.
It includes details about the first public meeting to discuss Acevedo’s tenure, when commissioners played videos of him impersonating Elvis Presley in a white jumpsuit dancing the “Jailhouse Rock” at a fundraiser previous to his Miami post. They “attempted to humiliate him,” the complaint states.
The city of Miami did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Acevedo was recruited by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez away from Houston. At the time, he was touted as a progressive law enforcer who had headed the police department in Houston and shared ancestry with hundreds of thousands Cubans in Miami as a Havana-born refugee.
But Acevedo began making waves almost immediately after he started in the post last April by taking over internal affairs and making significant changes to his command staff. He demoted four majors and fired two high-level police officials — a married couple — because they weren’t truthful about a crash involving a city-issued SUV.
The suit was filed in federal court against the city of Miami, its city manager Art Noriega and three city commissioners.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.