Coral Gables commissioners have decided the fate of a city police officer accused of spying on a resident at a City Commission meeting.
Tuesday's commission meeting was packed with emotion. There were tears and some laughs, but in the end, commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of the settlement, which essentially means that police Maj. Theresa Molina will continue to collect a paycheck while working from home before officially retiring in November.
She sat in the front row just feet from her accuser. They didn't make eye contact, but Molina heard every word of Coral Gables resident Maria Cruz's emotional plea.
"I'm here to ask you to disregard the city manager's recommendation. Uphold the chief's and terminate Ms. Molina. Please!" Cruz said.
The chief of police, Ed Hudak, has been calling for the firing of the 23-year veteran since last month when an internal affairs investigation revealed Molina crossed the line when she started snapping photos of a text message conversation between Cruz and commissioners during a commission meeting last September.
But the city manager disagreed with the recommendation after an independent investigator concluded that the punishment was too harsh.
The City Commission voted 3-2 on Tuesday in favor of a separation agreement. The city manager's signature essentially means Molina will remain at home collecting a paycheck while using a combination of paid sick days and vacation until November, when she's expected to retire with benefits.
"This is the end of a very lengthy process with the city, and she's happy with the way she's chosen to retire as an officer," said Brian Tanenbaum, Molina's attorney.
"It is a sad day in Coral Gables," Cruz said. "Once again we reward people for doing wrong."
"She also made an effort to suppress free speech and to me, we can do a lot better," Commissioner Vince Lago said.
It should be noted that there were Coral Gables residents who came out to the meeting to show support for Molina and Cruz. It should also be noted that commissioners who supported the agreement said although she made a terrible mistake, they do not believe this is a fireable offense, considering she's never been in trouble in the past.