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Opa-Locka Mayor Myra Taylor
August 22, 2016
The former city manager of Opa-Locka and public works director are facing corruption charges amid a federal probe into the city.
Former Opa Locka City Manager David Chiverton, who resigned last month, and former Opa-Locka Assistant Public Works Director Gregory Harris were charged for their participation in a two year long bribery and extortion scheme, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
According to the Department of Justice and F.B.I., Chiverton and Harris used their official positions to solicit, demand and obtain thousands of dollars in bribes from businesses and individuals in exchange for some sort of official action.
In exchange for the illegal payments, investigators said a public official would direct Chiverton, Harris and other City of Opa-Locka employees to do various tasks like:
Issuing occupational licenses
Waiving, removing, and settling code enforcement matters and liens
Initiating, restoring and continuing water service and also, assisting with zoning issues.
Harris also allegedly was directed by Chiverton and another public official to take actions like restoring water service to businesses that had paid them illegal bribes.
If convicted, Chiverton and Harris each face a maximum sentence of five years behind bars, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release.
The FBI has also been investigating Opa-Locka’s mayor over allegations of corruption. Several other top officials are under investigation as well.
Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor has denied any wrongdoing, and other city officials have not publicly commented on the accusations.
The city’s mayor, manager, commissioners, and even members of the police force could be facing criminal charges for corruption involving millions of public dollars, including bribery, extortion, and illegally shuffling around money to cover up an $8 million deficit, according to The Miami Herald.
Among other things, the investigation found that city inspectors and public works employees routinely demanded similar bribes from other local business owners, at times with the help of the police. And there are video tapes to prove it.
On March 10, 2016, dozens of FBI agents raided the Opa-locka City Hall, hauling away boxes and boxes of official records, computers, and hard drives.
It all started years ago after a city inspector demanded a routine bribe from a local business owner.
But this time, instead of paying up, the business owner turned to the feds for help.
Since then, the FBI has been investigating a slew of extortion and kickback schemes orchestrated by the city’s leadership, according to the Miami Herald.
Frank Zambrana, says he wore a wire for the F.B.I. and recorded a number of city officials shaking him down for bribes for about two years.
Frank Zambrana claims city commissioner Luis Santiago began shaking him down for payments.
He then says Santiago introduced him to Chiverton and Harris. Years later, Zambrana is finally seeing action.
He said he regretted participating in the long drawn out FBI investigation.
In the time he helped the FBI, he has lost two sons. One to cancer and one to suicide. And he’s also lost his business.
Local government corruption cases are unfortunately common, but what sets this one apart is that it is so widespread
Corruption involving all levels of city leadership from the mayor to public works employees and even the police department. Spreading like a wild fire through everything from public service departments (water and sewer) to private local businesses.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Higher up in the city government, commissioners were getting payoffs from administrators in exchange for massive government contracts.
Some of the deals that are being investigated include the construction of a $4.3 million community center in 2010.
The bidding process seemed to be rigged so that the city’s former housing chief would be awarded the construction job, even though his bid was $1.2 million higher than the lowest competing bid.
Another includes the department of public works, where employees would turn off a customer’s water if their payment was late. But, for an under the table bribe, services were resumed.
There were also cases of shell jobs in the public works department, a position existed and an employee collected a paycheck but the job was never physically filled.
The city of Opa-Locka is under a state of financial emergency declared by Governor Rick Scott. That means the State is now running the City government there.
State law allows the governor to step in when cities face financial emergencies, including a takeover of services.
City officials say Opa-Locka is facing a $1.4 million shortfall plus millions more in previous debts.
It appears that after years of corruption, these guys have managed to bankrupt the City.