The Bizarre World of Florida

Boss-B-Gone: Police employees accused of alleged Santeria birdseed plot December 1, 2011

Filed under: Bizzarre,Controversy,Florida Nut,Really Dumb,Unusual,Voodoo,WTF? — floridaduh @ 2:47 pm

Two North Miami Beach employees — one a police officer, the other a  department office manager — are in hot water after trying to enlist some  supernatural aid in the form of what they believed to be a Santeria  practice,  reports The Miami Herald.

mug_Larry_Gomer.jpgTheir alleged target: City Manager Lyndon Bonner, whose plan to slash the  police budget prompted protests and union outrage this fall.

Their mystical material: handfuls of birdseed which, according to an  internal affairs report, they hoped to scatter in and around Bonner’s  fourth-floor office at City Hall.

But when they tried to recruit a janitor to sprinkle the seeds, she balked — and turned them in.

Officer Elizabeth Torres told investigators she meant the manager no harm: “I  want to clarify, that it’s nothing malicious and nothing intended to hurt that  person.”

She was told last week she faced termination over the August incident, which  took place against the backdrop of a contentious budget season. Unionized city  employees must go through an appeal process before they can be fired.

Office manager Yvonne Rodriguez, who is not a member of the union, was fired  last week for her role in the plot.

While Santeria practitioners have argued that their practice constitutes a  legitimate religion and bristle at depictions of the practice as black magic or  witchcraft, they acknowledge that public displays of their traditions can spook  non-believers. And both adherents and experts say that the Afro-Cuban religion,  itself an amalgamation of Catholicism and African spiritual traditions, does not  count malice — such as casting harmful spells — as one of its principles.

“Santeria is a very loose term that we on the outside use to generally  characterize Afro-Cuban religious expressions. Santeria is not black magic. In  fact, true practitioners of Santeria will tell you they are good and would never  harm a person,” said Albert Wuaku, a professor of African and African Diaspora  Studies at Florida International University.

Although a city press release sent out Wednesday said both women had been “terminated,’’ a city spokesperson said Torres had not been officially fired and  was scheduled to meet with Bonner on Monday to plead her case.

Torres, a 24-year department veteran, told investigators she was motivated in  part because she couldn’t attend union protests over budget cuts due to her work  and school schedule. She said she does not practice Santeria but said she was  familiar with the religion through family members, according to an internal  affairs report released Wednesday.

The report found the women violated city rules with conduct that is offensive  toward a fellow employee, conduct unbecoming of a city employee and conduct that  brings the department into disrepute or reflects discredit on the individual  employee.

Torres told police she had a joking conversation with Rodriguez about using  birdseeds to get Bonner to “leave the police department alone.”

Torres said she knew the birdseeds would work because her son and daughter  moved out of her home after she placed birds in a cage with birdseeds on her  front porch.

North Miami Police Chief Larry Gomer has recommended a formal letter of  reprimand for Torres and a 240-hour suspension. But in a letter to Torres dated  Tuesday, Bonner wrote, “I believe the charges against you are extremely serious  and I am considering terminating your employment with the city.”

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/30/2525681/north-miami-beach-police-employees.html#ixzz1fIJfhOPE



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