The Wilton Manors Police Department is reeling from reports that the police chief is under criminal investigation.
Senior managers have given employees strict warnings not to discuss the probe.
Yet the South Florida Times has learned that the Broward State Attorney’s Office is investigating Chief Richard E. Perez for allegations of perjury related to his testimony in a 2007 civil trial. The alleged crime would be a felony.
Perez has not responded to questions about the investigation, but sources who requested anonymity have confirmed that Perez is the target of the probe.
“He is aware he is under investigation, but he is not concerned about it,” said a source close to the investigation who did not wish to be named because the investigation is confidential.
Other sources say that Perez received a target letter from prosecutors several weeks ago. The South Florida Times has requested copies of the letter.
The investigation centers on allegations of perjury related to Perez’s testimony in the 2007 civil trial of Philip “Phil” Cameron against his former employer, the Fraternal Order of Police union.
Also named in lawsuit were three union officials: Steve Klapka, James N. Mann and Martin Garcia. Cameron filed the lawsuit, alleging he was fired unjustly after being accused of several offenses, including theft and fraud.
As a result Cameron had difficulty finding other employment. A former police officer, Cameron inquired about openings in the Wilton Manors Police Department.
Perez testified that he could not hire Cameron because he didn't have any openings. He also testified he had never hired anyone that had been fired by another agency.
Cameron and Perez previously worked together as officers in the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the two were close friends. The criminal complaint also alleges that Perez’s testimony was designed to help Cameron, who went on to win a $333,688.64 judgment from the union and two of the three officials.
Prosecutors with the Broward State Attorney’s Office are not commenting, but the South Florida Times has confirmed that Stacy B. Schulman, an assistant state attorney in the Special Investigation Unit, has been combing through records at city hall. She has also subpoenaed other city records, including the personnel files of three police officers. All those officers were fired by different agencies, but were later hired by Perez. This appears to contradict Perez’s testimony in the civil trial.
According to other sources, a complaint against Perez was filed by the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) union, which represents police officers in Wilton Manors. Union officials are neither confirming nor denying that they filed the complaint.
“It would be illegal for me to say what, or if, we filed anything,” said Jeff Marano, senior vice president of the Broward County local of the Police Benevolent Association.
“What I can say is that we were preparing for a discipline case involving a demotion in Wilton Manors,” Marano said. “During our research, we discovered there was a similar case, and there was all this documentation, but I can’t say what we did with it.”
Wilton Manors City Manager Joseph L. Gallegos would not say what steps he would take if and when he is officially informed that Perez is under criminal investigation.
“At this time, the only contact the State Attorney’s Office has had with the City of Wilton Manors is a subpoena for copies of the job applications and hiring records of three police officers from our Human Resources Department, who I am assured were handled in no way different from other applicants at the time,” Gallegos said in an email to the newspaper. “I am not aware that any specific individual person in our City is under investigation.”
In the meantime, Perez continues with his normal duties.
Pictured at top is Richard Perez. Pictured below Perez is Jeff Marano.