NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- The North Miami Beach police officer accused of trying to cast a Santeria spell over the city manager's office to stop him from slashing police jobs was fired Monday.
City Manager Lyndon Bonner, the target of Officer Edith Torres' allegedly magical plot, fired the 24-year veteran for conduct unbecoming of an officer.
Her attorney insisted the officer was simply behaving in a "lighthearted nature" and argued the publicity surrounding the Santeria escapade would hurt the veteran officer's chances of getting another job.
According to an internal affairs report, Torres tried to recruit the help of a janitor to sprinkle birdseed in the manager's office. Torres believed the birdseed held mystical powers which would make the city manager "go away."
The janitor refused to carry out the birdseed plot and reported Torres to her boss.
An office manager with the police department was also fired after the janitor told city officials she was involved in the birdseed plot.
As is customary, unionized employees can plead their case before their termination is finalized. Torres did not show up to a scheduled appeal hearing with Bonner on Monday. Instead, union attorney Aaron Nisenson sent a two-page letter to Bonner in her defense.
"We continue to emphasize the lighthearted nature of the incident and ask the city to further consider the justification and necessity of the termination of Officer Torres," Nisenson wrote. "... The termination and subsequent negative publicity may jeopardize Officer Torres' future career opportunities in law enforcement, her personal and professional reputation and cause untold distress to her and her family."
Nisenson called Bonner's decision to fire Torres "excessive" and "bias" noting Torres was superstitious but she was not an actual practitioner of what he called "black magic."
Bonner, who previously worked in Okeechobee County, Fla., refuted claims of bias and said in an interview Monday that Torres' firing was justified.
He said he based his decision on the findings of the internal affairs report, which concluded Torres' actions were unbecoming of an officer.
"When I weighed it all out this morning it was substantiated that she engaged in conduct unbecoming of an officer. I think the termination was justified," Bonner said.
Visit The Miami Herald at www.miamiherald.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services