Dismissed Miami code compliance officer alleges discrimination in federal lawsuit

At around 2 a.m. on February 21, 2021, Miami City Code Inspector Suzann Nicholson came across a familiar face while investigating an illegal party in Allapattah: Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz of the Portilla.

Dressed in a dark-colored costume and a mask decorated with the city’s emblem, Diaz de la Portilla was standing inside what appeared to be a VIP area when Nicholson began asking questions about the place. She later alleged that while attempting to review the curfew violation, the commissioner pushed her, causing her to fall and injure her hip.

Citing police body camera footage that did not appear to show any physical altercation between the two, Diaz de la Portilla accused Nicholson of lying and she responded with legal action. A month later, in May 2021, the city fired her, saying she had not cooperated with her investigation into the case.

Nicholson, a black woman, has filed a federal complaint accusing city officials of retaliating against her and repeatedly subjecting her to racial, gender and gender discrimination during her 16-year tenure. .

In the complaint filed Jan. 3, Nicholson alleges that her colleagues and superiors made comments such as “put her where her people are in Liberty City” and called her the N word. She accuses the city of it. fired because she is black, gay, female, and has a history of disability.

The lawsuit also reiterates Nicholson’s previous claims that Diaz de la Portilla made derogatory comments during the February event, including saying that “his kind” was not welcome there.

Neither the town nor Nicholson’s attorneys Jeffrey Fedna and Arthur Mandel responded to emailed requests for comment for this story. In response to New timesAsking for comment, Diaz de la Portilla, who had previously called for Nicholson’s sacking and denied the charges, wrote: “I only respond to reporters.”

Click to enlarge Body camera footage shows Miami City Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla at an unlicensed nightclub in February 2021. - SCREENSHOTS OF MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT

Body camera footage shows Miami City Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla at an unlicensed nightclub in February 2021.

Screenshot of Miami Police Department body camera footage

Nicholson was hired in 2004 as a customer service representative. According to the lawsuit, she was repeatedly ill-treated by her colleagues and superiors, including being declared ineligible for a promotion to which she had applied, despite the fact that she met all the conditions, and learning that after having First applied to work for the city, officials deleted and reposted the position she was applying for to list requirements that were not previously included.

The lawsuit also claims that Nicholson’s co-workers were harassed and created a hostile work environment for her by calling him “sir” and asking him “Why is your hair like this?” You are a woman “.

In addition to accusations regarding the treatment she received during her tenure, the trial alleges that Diaz de la Portilla questioned her attendance at the party after the curfew and said: “Ella está arrogante sin razón” ( “She is arrogant for no reason”).

Police body camera footage captured the commissioner trying to dissuade Nicholson from investigating, insisting he would take care of things.

“If you could just walk away, please … I’ll call the city manager in the morning.” So I need you to go now. Thank you, “he says. (The body camera audio cuts out at least three times during the 25-minute clip. At one point, a Miami police officer is seen asking his colleagues if their cameras are off before they turn off. the sound is muted.)

Notably, the lawsuit alleges that when Nicholson called his former supervisor, Deputy Director of Code Compliance Eric Nemons, to tell him that the Commissioner was present at the party, he instructed her to destroy all photographic evidence she had the event. He reportedly told Nicholson, “We’re supposed to keep our politicians safe. ”

Nemons, according to the lawsuit, was subsequently promoted to acting director of the Department of Code Compliance. His LinkedIn profile shows he held the position until July and was appointed Deputy Director of Code Compliance in January. Nemons did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Joined by email, Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez said: “We look forward to taking this case to court.”

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