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Sweetwater's Interim Chief Vows Change As Former Employees Ask For Jobs Back

SWEETWATER (CBSMiami) - A former Sweetwater police department employee will get another chance to ask for his job back after he was granted a continuance at a special commission meeting Tuesday night.

Richard Brenner was fired in October, as an FBI probe zeroed in on the department.

Brenner, a red-light camera operator, was suspended, then reinstated and ultimately terminated.

A police department spokesman said Brenner failed to meet "probationary standards".

Sources tell CBS4 News Brenner was doing police work when he was supposed to be operating in a civilian capacity.

"I was actually assigned to the detective bureau. They failed to provide that to the media. I'm the one bringing it to light at this time," Brenner told CBS 4's Lauren Pastrana.

Brenner said former Mayor Manny Maroño and former Police Chief Roberto Fulgueira assigned him to that post.

Maroño pleaded guilty last week to a federal corruption charge and Fulgueira retired last month.

Brenner believes the new administration is responsible for his termination.

"I think it's more a casualty of war. It's more a political struggle going on in the city," he said. "I've paid the ultimate price."

Along with Brenner, former Sweetwater Police Commander Mario Miranda asked to be reinstated Tuesday.

In his case, the commission ruled it did not have jurisdiction to grant that request.

Miranda declined our request for comment.

"Just watch the circuit court action," his attorney said cryptically before leaving hopping in an elevator to be whisked away from the 3rd floor commission chamber.

Miranda was also fired in October.

A police department spokesman said Miranda omitted certain key facts about his background during his application process.

CBS4 News reviewed documents that show both Miranda and Brenner had access to a secret property room filled with uncatalogued evidence and property from current criminal cases.

The new administration claims it was unaware the room existed until last month.

The FBI is investigating several officers in the department, as well as the city's connection to a towing company with ties to former mayor Maroño.

CBS4 and our partners at el Nuevo Herald have uncovered Southland the Towing Company once did all the towing for the police department under a no-bid, verbal agreement with former chief Fulgueira.

Interim Police Chief Jesse Menocal has vowed to make changes, starting with mandatory training sessions.

Menocal isn't pointing fingers, but said the department is cooperating with the FBI.

"The investigations, it's what happened before i took over," Menocal told Pastrana. "Like I said, I can't change the past."

Seventeen officers went through the training Tuesday.

The course covered topics including use of force, traffic stop protocol and police pursuit procedures.

Whether Brenner is reinstated and gets to go through that training won't be decided until the next city commission meeting on December 2nd.


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