He rode into the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office promising to fight corruption, but in Riviera Beach, Michael McAuliffe failed spectacularly.
Three years ago, McAuliffe charged three Riviera cops with felonies ranging from official misconduct to tipping off a murder suspect about an impending arrest. This was the ambitious prosecutor's chance to clean up a police department long rumored to be dirty. Riviera's detective bureau was covered in crime scene tape. Cops were booked into the Palm Beach County Jail. Yet none of the department's top brass was charged.
Fast-forward to last week. A West Palm Beach jury acquitted Detective
Lee Ann Schneider of 152 charges of forgery and official misconduct. She admitted to
signing her supervisor's name to official paperwork, boosting his
overtime pay, but said she was simply following orders. Schneider was the second Riviera cop to be acquitted,
after Vice Agent John Toombs. The third, Sgt. Michael Dodson, pleaded
guilty in November to disorderly intoxication and using a firearm while
under the influence of alcohol. He was sentenced to one year of
probation. But his crime had little to do with on-the-job corruption; he
drunkenly fired 15 or 16 rounds from his Glock in his own garage.
Sources familiar with the Riviera cop shop speculated that prosecutors were hoping Schneider would be the linchpin in the corruption case. She would rat out her boss, Sgt. Pat Galligan, in the overtime scam, and Galligan would turn on Assistant Chief David Harris, his friend and ally. But that theory never panned out. If McAuliffe was searching for a golden goose, he never found one. Galligan retired while the case was under investigation and was never charged with a crime. Neither was Harris.
Instead, Schneider was booked into jail twice and suffered "three years of hell" before finally winning at trial. By the time her case reached a jury last week, McAuliffe had left the State Attorney's Office. In January, he abruptly decided not to seek reelection. Instead, he went to work for Palm Beach billionaire Bill Koch.
As for any corruption that remains in Riviera Beach? That's no longer McAuliffe's problem.