Marco Island police chief intends to retire June 15
Marco Island Police Chief Al Schettino has informed city officials that he will retire later this year.
Schettino, who is facing intense scrutiny over numerous incidents of police misconduct and questionable leadership decisions during his tenure, submitted a letter to City Manager David Harden Thursday indicating his plans to depart on June 15.
In an email to elected officials Thursday night, Harden wrote that he plans to launch a national search for Schettino's replacement. Between now and the scheduled retirement date, Harden said he believed it was enough time to recruit and select a new chief.
Schettino's announcement this week comes on the heels of another embarrassing blow to the professionalism and reputation of the police department.
Earlier this month, a Marco Eagle investigation revealed that the state attorney's office had declined to prosecute recent high-profile arrests due to the involvement of a Marco Island officer on its do-not-subpoena list. In the investigation, the Eagle found that Officer Tige Thompson had been on patrol for several years and involved in hundreds of criminal arrests and traffic offenses despite being on the list since 2011. The do-not-subpoena list contains law enforcement officials, sometimes referred to as "Brady cops," that have a history of dishonesty or credibility issues.
The 1963 Supreme Court decision in Brady v. Maryland established that prosecutors were required to disclose any exculpatory evidence, including anything that could be used to impeach a witness.
Schettino indicated to Harden that he reassigned Thompson to road patrol from investigations in 2015 out of fear that he would taint all cases he worked on, which has ultimately occurred with his arrests as he cannot testify in court.
After the Eagle's investigation, Thompson was initially reassigned to code enforcement and the handling of non-criminal complaints. The city, however, placed Thompson on administrative leave this week as it determines whether it has grounds to terminate his employment due to his inability to fulfill the requirement of testifying in court, which is listed in the job description for police officers.
Along with the "Brady cop" issue, the police department was embroiled in a sex on duty scandal involving one woman, resulting in two police officers resigning, one being terminated and another being reprimanded for knowing but not reporting the actions.
Internal affairs investigations into the two officers that resigned resulted in the department finding allegations credible. A data analysis of disciplinary cases submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement completed by the Eagle found that the three now-former Marco Island officers are part of the 277 Florida law enforcement or corrections officers investigated for having sex on duty up through the 2018 calendar year.
Brian Granneman, the officer that knew sex on duty was taking place and failed to report it, was promoted to sergeant in late November.
The woman who was separately involved with all of the officers has filed a notice of claim against the city in preparation to sue it for damages caused by negligence in the hiring, retention and supervision of the officers.
The city of Marco Island may also face additional litigation due to Schettino's handling of a leak investigation involving former City Manager Lee Niblock.
Schettino attempted to scapegoat records clerk Heather Comparini for the dissemination of confidential information and at one point called for the city's legal counsel to draw up termination papers.
In a June letter to City Attorney Alan Gabriel, obtained through a public records request, Comparini's attorney Neil Snyder informed him of the intent to pursue a claim against the city for harassment, intimidation and defamation by senior law enforcement personnel.
Snyder included a text message sent by Sgt. Neil Giansanti, who coincidentally was one of the officers involved in the sex-on-duty scandal, that proved Comparini was not the source of the leak.
The sequence of events over the past year has resulted in some of the chief's biggest supporters having a change of heart.
At a City Council meeting in March last year, members of the Police Foundation flocked to Schettino's defense as the council discussed findings of an employee climate survey, which included numerous allegations of impropriety within the police department.
Schettino, himself, barked at Councilor Larry Honig, who pushed for an external review of the department, calling him a disgrace and lauding the professionalism of his officers.
This week, Jack Patterson, who led the political action committee that established the city and is a member of the Police Foundation, called for an independent investigation.
"You need to direct the city manager to look into that 2017 survey, which was not done," Patterson said. "There was a city manager that chose not to get into that and some mistakenly thought that was an attack on the leadership of the department, which it was not.
"Second, I would recommend that you move to the city manager to bring in a qualified third-party to investigate what's going on and report to you. We cannot let this issue go any further. Do not ignore it."
The June 15 retirement date is not insignificant as it represents Schettino's 10th anniversary with the police department.
Barring any unforeseen changes to Schettino's employment status, he will also be eligible for a retirement badge and identification card as outlined in a new policy he enacted last October.
The policy establishes that sworn retired officers must have 20 years of service on the police department or a combination of experience that also includes 10 years of service in Marco Island.
Eligibility for retirement badges became a point of contention last year when then-Sgt. Micheal Vogel and Schettino got into a spat over Vogel being issued a badge prior to his retirement.
In an email to Schettino, which was later forwarded to the Marco Island City Council, Vogel asked for Schettino to reconsider giving him a retirement card after it was taken away and noted that other retired officers had been given one.
"Chief, I have worked in law enforcement for over 32 years," Vogel wrote on April 11. "I’ve given my entire adult life to this career protecting and serving others. I did my six-plus years here at MIPD and am retiring in good standing. I’m really shocked that you would place this order now that I am leaving. I’m horrified MIPD wouldn’t have the courtesy to honor a retiree vs condemn them for serving all these years by not allowing them any identification. I’m sure it was special to you when you received your ID from NJ. I have nothing to show (badge or ID) that I even served now."
Schettino dismissed Vogel's email at the time it was forwarded to the City Council as a complaint from a disgruntled former officer. However, the email to the City Council contained numerous other allegations against Schettino that were also in the climate survey and others.
This included Schettino authorizing Sgt. Mark Haueter to use personal hours donated by other officers before exhausting his own and later cashing them out, which was against best practices and an unheard of action in government by human resources experts.