Counsel withdraws from ex-Marco cop's Baker Act lawsuit against city
A Collier County Circuit Court judge has granted permission for the plaintiffs’ counsel to withdraw in the former Marco Island police officer’s civil suit against the city in which he alleged he was illegally Baker Acted by fellow police personnel.
Attorneys Robert Bates and Peter Huy, who represented fired Marco Island police officer Kevin Hennings and his wife, Molly, cited two rules regulating professional conduct for the Florida Bar in court documents, including one in which “representation will result in the violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct or law” or the attorney reasonably believes the client has or is taking fraudulent or criminal action using his or her services.
Bates did not respond to requests for comment regarding the decision to withdraw from the case.
The Hennings filed suit last year against the city of Marco Island and current and former police personnel Don Hunter, David Baer, Linda Guerrero, Anthony Spina, Paul Keys and Robert Sims over a 2013 incident that resulted in Kevin Hennings being forcibly restrained and transported to a mental health facility in Fort Myers.
The Baker Act allows for the involuntary institutionalization and evaluation of someone that may have a mental illness and present harm to him or herself and others.
Prior to the act, Sims and Keys memorialized observations of Hennings’s behavior that caused them to be concerned.
“I am aware that help is available if he were to request it,” Sims wrote in a memo to then-Chief Hunter. “One of the downsides of being an officer is we seldom ask for help as we believe it is viewed as a sign of weakness. While we are all very prideful individuals, I believe some type of intervention is needed in this matter.”
Hennings was released within 24 hours of being detained and referred to being Baker Acted in the legal complaint as “the culmination of many failed attempts by defendant The Marco Police Department to force Officer Hennings to voluntarily resign from employment.”
While the complaint noted a number of internal affairs investigations against Hennings that were not sustained, it did not acknowledge the violations that were either sustained or had passed the six-month window established by state law to complete an investigation and administer punishment.
Despite the pending lawsuit against the city, Hennings remained employed as a police officer until he was terminated in September 2018 after a 5-month internal affairs investigation concluded allegations that he had sex while on duty were credible.
In addition to the investigation sustaining four violations of police policy against Hennings, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has the authority to suspend or revoke an officer’s certification in the state for a sex on duty violation.
Hennings has denied the allegations and has begun the arbitration process in an attempt to regain employment with the department.
With depositions for the civil case initially scheduled for Feb. 1 and 4, the Hennings’ had filed a motion for a 90-day extension so that they can obtain new counsel.
Judge Lauren Brodie, however, has granted them 30 days to obtain new counsel before a status hearing takes place on Feb. 18.