NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. -- Amid the backdrop of the continuing fallout of the theft of items from the New Smyrna Beach Police Department uncovered two years ago and a revolving door of top cops in the interim, the office of City Manager Pamela Brangaccio put out a press release Friday announcing the police agency was moving towards accreditation.
But no mention was made of the extent of missing and stolen items -- 940 that includes cash, handguns, ammunition, drugs, electronics, jewelry ad several automobiles that were impounded. FDLE conducted an investigation, but was unable to link what it identified as outright thievery to an individual or individuals in the police force.
This had occurred under the watch of then-Police Chief Ronald Pagano, who instead of being questioned in the Sunshine by the City Commission, instead saw his contract re-written in October 2012, that essentially gave him an extra half-year's salary he wasn't otherwise entitled to. He was replaced at year's end by then-Lt. Michael Brouillette as acting chief until May 2013, when George Markert was hired following a national search.
Markert abruptly quit in October under circumstances that neither he nor the city has clearly explained. Earlier this year, Brouillette abruptly resigned after signing a "separation agreement" while he was in the midst of the DROP program (working to fulfill what was left of time to collect a lump sum retirement in less than three years).
The document reads like it is written in code with unanswered questions, too. And there's Markert's replacement, Lt. Donna LaVallee, named acting chief. She, too, has, a longstanding personnel issue -- alleged forged GED -- which neither she nor the city will discuss related to her inertial hiring.
And while the press release paints a rosy picture of the NSBPD and its quest for accreditation -- a standard in which a police agency meets statuary requirements for serving and protecting in its internal workings -- the morale under Lavallee has been ugly. Just a few weeks ago, she and Detective Sgt. Eugene Griffith, the assigned public information officer, got into a heated argument over quotes he he gave to Headline Surfer® over the city's opening of a new hiking trail. Griffith acknowledged understaffed cops would have a difficult time policing the trail, which opened last month.
Griffith, a 24-year veteran, submitted his retirement last month as a result of the confrontation by LaVallee and has since been told he's banned from the police station and that he will be paid for the five weeks he was scheduled to work.
Eugene Griffith, a 24-year veteran of the New Smyrna Beach police force, submitted his retirement last month as a result of the confrontation initiated by Acting Police Chief Donna LaVallee and has since been told he's banned from the police station and that he will be paid for the five weeks he was scheduled to work. LaVallee has not returned calls and ermail messages left by Headline Surfer for comment.
A full story on LaVallee's beef with Griffith, who was the assigned PIO, is in the works as part of the award-winning internet newspaper's investigative reports on scandal in the NSBPD cop shop, on the fallout from thefts in the evidence room uncovered more than two years ago, that also has led to a revolving door of top cops -- Police Chief Ronald Pagano, former Acting Police Chief Michael Brouillette, former Police Chief George Markert, and now acting Chief Lavallee in charge -- and behind the scenes maneuvering from the office of City Manager Pam Brangaccio in trying to contain the fallout and embarrassment to the city from this scandal.
Headline Surfer® had tried repeatedly to get LaVallee herself to comment on the trail, burt she did not return messages left via phone to her voice mail nor on her email. The internet newspaper also left messages for her through the City Manager's Office, the City Clerk's Office, with Griffith the PIO and front desk personnel at the police station. Yet in the press release, LaVallee is quoted extensively.
The city employs a professional public relations specialist, Holly Smith, to write its favorable press releases. Headline Surfer® is working on a series of investigative stories on the theft scandal in the NSBPD cop shop, but for now, what follows is the city's police release on accreditation as it was originally submitted and presented here in two cut-out snapshots: