MIAMI — Embattled Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito, in a sharply worded letter, has accused Mayor Tomás Regalado of meddling in police investigations of illegal gambling at city cafeterias and bodegas.
In a letter delivered to the mayor late Wednesday, Exposito said: ``Through the Mayor's office there was a concerted effort to interfere with the gambling enforcement operation. You, as the Mayor have gone beyond the legal bounds of your office.''
Regalado responded Thursday: ``What I think is that the chief is spending a lot of time trying to keep his job instead of doing the work a police chief should do.''
Exposito's volley comes as he tries to fend off increasing political heat from the mayor over his job performance. Regalado appointed Exposito to the position 13 months ago, and soon after, they stood together trumpeting the success of a series of public corruption arrests -- most which quickly fizzled under prosecutorial scrutiny.
Observers have speculated that Exposito could be ousted as early as next week, when new city manager Tony Crapp Jr. takes office.
In the letter, Exposito does not specify what exactly Regalado did to exceed his authority. The mayor said he didn't know what ``interference'' meant.
But in a letter dated two days earlier to Regalado, Exposito points to the mayor championing an October ordinance regulating coin-operated machines that can be used for illegal gambling. Eleven days after the ordinance passed, Miami police raided a series of businesses, arresting scores of people and seizing 400-plus machines.
The mayor defended the ordinance, which requires city merchants to pay up to $500 in fees for every gaming machine on their premises -- potentially generating $750,000 in extra revenue for the city every year. Critics, including Exposito, worry that the law, in essence, condones illegal storefront gambling. ``We're talking about an ordinance that was vetted by the law department, that was approved by the city commission, that had the intent of raising money,'' Regalado said.
Exposito, through a spokesman, declined to comment Thursday.
His Wednesday letter was copied to the FBI, the Miami-Dade state attorney's office and the U.S. attorney's office. Federal law prohibits elected officials from conspiring to obstruct state gambling statutes.
The chief appears to be setting up a potential lawsuit. A decade ago, Exposito filed a whistleblower complaint against the city, claiming he was unfairly demoted for complaining about dossiers police kept on politicians.
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