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Facing an emotional maelstrom, the Key Biscayne Village Council agreed Tuesday to hold a public forum on issues related to how police investigate sex cases and how the Village is protecting its youngest citizens. 

The issue came to a head over the recent allegations against a gymnastic coach and the federal arrest of a local attorney on child pornography charges. Village Manager Steve Williamson said he is open to look into increased vetting for vendors and coaches.

Council Members Brett Moss and Oscar Sardiñas said their daughters went to FlipOut Workout where the gymnastic teacher taught. And Police Chief Frank Sousa, coming off a hospitalization last week for pneumonia, once again had to painstakingly describe police procedure and defend his department.

Council Members Brett Moss (center) and Oscar Sardiñas (right) discuss child safety at the Key Biscayne Village Council meeting, Feb. 13, 2024. (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)

“I have five kids. Five teenagers, three girls. If you don’t think that I know the dangers of society, I do – not because I’m a police officer, but because I’m a father first,” said Sousa, facing the public in attendance.

A petition demanding a town hall was signed by 4% of the island’s 15,000-resident population. The Council, confronted with pleas from the public, had little choice but to agree.

The Key Biscayne Neighbors Association was also a big supporter of the petition. The political group, which has many former elected officials and candidates as members, mounted an aggressive campaign in advance of the meeting. 

“We understand that there’s been concern and discussion going on throughout the Village, which mostly originated from care and concern, but is somewhat misinformed,” Sousa said.

Moss also addressed the misinformation, saying he learned about the Olea investigation along with everyone else – in news reports. He didn’t know why Flipout Workout had closed in September and left his daughter without a gymnastic class.

“So this is not something that I think that the elected officials knew about and we’re not sharing with anybody. That’s not true. And that’s not what occurred.”

The facts are that gymnastic coach Oscar Olea was subject of a KBPD police investigation last fall after parents of 4- and 7-year-old students came forward with reports of inappropriate behavior by the coach but police and prosecutors found no charges were warranted.  Olea has not been charged with any crime and has denied any wrongdoing.

The Miami Herald reported two women came forward to police last week about incidents that happened more than a decade ago. Olea, who once taught at the Community Center, was removed from his position with a Village contractor in November 2011, records show.

William McCaughan Jr., a former attorney who lived on Key Biscayne, was arrested on child pornography charges last July. The arrest did not become public until Dec. 31 and some residents were angry with the KPBD that they weren’t alerted – but Sousa again said it was the  FBI’s case and the department was not involved. He said the McCaughan Jr. and Olea matters are not related.

The Council asked Williamson to organize the town hall and also compile a report on what the Village could do better to vet all adults who may come into contact with children. 

“The safety and security of our residents is a top priority, and most importantly our children. We clearly understand how important this is for our residents,” Williamson said.

Fernando Diez, a father whose daughter attended Workout Flipout for many years, struggled to keep his composure during public comments, speaking with a broken voice.

Fernando Diez, a father whose daughter attended Workout Flipout for many years, struggled to keep his composure during public comments Feb 13, 2024 before the Key Biscayne Village Council. (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)

“She liked Coach Oscar so much that she asked me if she could attend his summer camp,” Diez said. “We will never know the magnitude of abuse that Coach Oscar has inflicted in this community.”

How much Key Biscayne is on edge because of these sex cases was on full display. 

Vivian Arias said her 11-year old daughter and her friends had men approach them on the Village Green and in front of Sir Pizza to take their picture without their consent. Police also have had to investigate at least two other reports of men taking pictures in public places.

Vivian Arias said her 11-year old has been photographied by strangers and urged a program to educate parents and kids about the dangers of sexual predators in comments at the Key Biscayne Village Council, Feb. 13, 2024. (Tony Winton/KBI Photo)

She said the Village needs evidence-based programs that residents can take to help protect children from predators.

“Adult awareness is the number one deterrent of child predators,” Arias said. “Parents, bystanders and law enforcement should at the very least question that type of behavior when it occurs, instead of trying to come up with a logical explanation on their own or look the other way.“

Sousa said officers in his department are required to take annual training on issues relating to sex crimes. 

John McKenzie, who has served as coach for youth sports, said the Village should require all those who serve in such positions to be certified with the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which offers tools and resources to prevent abuse.

McKenzie said he is certified with SafeSport as a hockey coach.  “I cannot be alone with a minor athlete unless it’s my own child,” he said.

Parks Director Todd Hofferberth said that the soccer coaches in the Village are SafeSport certified but the certification is not used for all sports.

Sousa, after addressing the meeting, would not go as far as saying the decades-old allegations against Olea have been reopened. “We have spoken with the women who have come forward and are listening to them,” he said. He did say he had spoken directly with State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, but did not elaborate. 

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John Pacenti

JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.