Raquel Regalado

District 7 County Commissioner Raquel Regalado speaks during the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners special meeting on Monday, June 6, 2022

Miami-Dade County commissioners on Monday voted 9-4 to approve a resolution that would make the county’s unincorporated areas into, essentially, the 35th municipality. This came after a 100-minute reaction during a Special Meeting of the Board.

Action also was taken regarding the Clerk of Courts operations, but both items would not be effective until 2025 – after the 2024 election, which will see voters return to the polls to choose a sheriff and a county clerk.

The re-establishment of the Miami-Dade Sheriff's Office, as approved by voters with the passage of Amendment 10 in November 2018, and new state regulations on how the county Clerk of Courts operations will be led, are the basis for the resolutions.

The idea of having two law enforcement agencies that could overlap each other -- the Miami-Dade Police Department and the new Sheriff's Office -- was questioned with regards to jurisdiction and duplicated services.

For example, which department would take the lead in a homicide case? Then there were questions about the eventual cost to taxpayers.

"This vote doesn't affect municipalities," said Commissioner Raquel Regalado, who decided to drop her resolution in favor of co-prime sponsoring Resolution 220783 with the initiator, Chairman Jose "Pepe" Diaz, after adding a "friendly" amendment.

"(Unincorporated areas) deserve parity, that's all we’re saying ... the injustice is allowing them to be second-class citizens," she said, regarding a high level of police coverage with specialized divisions, such as homicide.

An elected sheriff would be in charge come 2025, and no longer Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (who is the last in Florida to hold the dual role) or "director" (currently George A. Perez as the interim) of the Miami-Dade PD.

Commissioner Sally Heyman, like several others, said citizens in her district are satisfied with the services they receive now. She wanted to make clear that "all services could remain intact if it's the will of the elected sheriff."

Commissioner Joe Martinez pointed out that a town such as Sweetwater, without its own homicide department, would have to reach out to the Sheriff's Department because the newly created municipality would not have the authority.

"Now you would have to fund the Sheriff's homicide unit, the sexual battery unit,” he said, early in the discussions. “The best way is to continue services."

The Miami-Dade Police Department is currently being funded from countywide and Unincorporated Municipal Service Area (UMSA) revenues.

Monday’s resolution provides that the Miami-Dade Police Department shall provide police patrol services in the unincorporated areas of Miami-Dade County as well as the airports, PortMiami, and Miami-Dade County transit facilities, and continue to provide specialized investigative services including, but not limited to, homicide investigations, homeland security, air patrol, special response, economic crimes, public corruption, bomb disposal, the crime lab, the training bureau, the Fusion Center, and the Real Time Crime Center when the Miami-Dade County Sheriff’s Office is re-establish on Jan. 7, 2025.

It also provides for the preparation of draft transition agreements to be negotiated with the Sheriff-elect after the November, 2024 election.

"We know, when the Sheriff takes over, he or she will have their opinion on how they see (a perfect fit)," Chairman Diaz said. "I believe this is the most balanced item moving forward."

Martinez agreed, noting that nothing will be decided until the new Sheriff is elected and decides the best way to police Miami-Dade County – especially, the 1 million residents who live in unincorporated areas.

In 1966, the Dade County Sheriff's Office was reportedly engaged in a pattern of corrupt behavior – protecting illegal gambling operations, taking hush money from brothels, and even extorting illegal abortion providers for protection, according to a WLRN report. Following the scandal, Dade County voters chose to eliminate the elected sheriff position and make the county's police chief an appointed role.

Transitioning the Clerk of Courts

Resolution 221007, regarding the County Clerk of Courts and prime-sponsored by Regalado, passed 10-3.

It calls for establishing a transition plan related to the constitutional office of Clerk of the Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County. The resolution also: directs the County Mayor to inventory County employees, assets, equipment, contracts, grants and licenses used by the Finance Department; directs the County Mayor to create a transition plan and draft agreements for the transfer of responsibilities and functions of the County Finance Department to the Clerk of the Circuit Court; and provides for reports to the Board.

That transition also commences Jan. 7, 2025.

Basically, it calls for a Clerk of Court and an ex-officio Clerk of the Board, who would be in attendance, to answer questions on how money is spent, for example, with immediate replies.

Harvey Ruvin, in his 30th year as the county's Clerk of the Courts – and also a former commissioner – was in attendance, and spoke a couple of times at the podium.

"Harvey, my dear friend, you've done an amazing job," Chairman Diaz said. "I respect your opinion (to stay on and seek yet another re-election) and what the state tells you to do ... The amendment (being added to the resolution) is to have an 'asking' in 2025 as to what the state (wants) ... My colleagues are trying to keep it the way you have done, a safe system.”

To watch a replay of the entire Board of Commissioners meeting, click here

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