Gus Barreiro, a crusader for kids and former Miami-Dade lawmaker who helped bring down a fellow legislator in a high-profile race case, was unexpectedly fired from the Department of Juvenile Justice Friday.
Barreiro, a one-time critic of the agency, wouldn't say why he was dismissed but said
he did nothing wrong.
"I was let go by the agency,'' Barreiro said. "I'm not going to discuss that... I'm very upset about it.''
DJJ spokesman Frank Penela said Barreiro was fired Thursday and that a "termination letter'' was signed by deputy DJJ secretary Rod Love.
"It was for a policy violation,'' Penela said. "I don't know what the policy violation was.''
Barreiro said he wouldn't challenge his dismissal. He was chief of residential programs at the agency, earning about $72,000 a year.
The former Miami Beach lawmaker, a Republican, is no stranger to controversy.
In 2006, he filed a complaint against fellow Miami-Dade lawmaker Ralph Arza for using racial slurs to describe former Miami-Dade schools chief Rudy Crew. Arza and a cousin then left threatening messages on Barreiro's cell phone. Arza was charged with witness tampering and agreed to resign his office.
As Arza's standing in the black community sank, Barreiro's rose - in part because he repeatedly clashed with the DJJ bureaucracy over the unrelated deaths of two black teenagers at DJJ facilities, Martin Lee Anderson in 2006 and Omar Paisley in 2003.
Aided by Miami Beach Democratic Rep. Dan Gelber, Barreiro led the charge to investigate Martin's death after the youth was beaten at a Panama City boot camp. The case divided the Panhandle along racial lines.
In the fallout, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief resigned over insensitive statements he made and the boot camp guards and a nurse stood trial for Martin's death. They were found not guilty.
Barreiro was presented with a Children's Champion Award on the floor of the Florida House for his work in the Martin Lee Anderson case. Among those presenting Barreiro with the honor: Democratic St. Petersburg Rep. Frank Peterman, who became Barreiro's boss at DJJ.
After Gov. Charlie Crist's election in 2006, Barreiro campaigned for the job Peterman ultimately won.
Soon after accepting the DJJ job in March, Barreiro became a go-between with the agency and a group of men who were abused in the 1950s and 1960s -- the so-called "White House Boys'' -- at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.