PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Mayor JoAnn Faiella said she is happy, though not surprised, to learn she was cleared of wrongdoing related to decisions regarding city police personnel.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state attorney’s office determined there is no evidence Faiella is guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, according to a letter from Assistant State Attorney Lev Evans to the FDLE. That means the case is closed as long as no new evidence surfaces.
The investigation began after Capt. Joe D’Agostino filed a complaint Dec. 17, 2010, alleging Faiella used her office to influence personnel issues within the city’s police department. In that complaint, D’Agostino asked for city protection because he said he feared retaliation from Faiella.
“I have stated all along that I didn’t do anything wrong and they wouldn’t find anything,” Faiella said Thursday. “The city hired the first investigator and found nothing. I hired a private investigator, found nothing, and now FDLE and the state attorney found nothing. So now we can all move forward.”
On Jan. 3, City Attorney Roger Orr sent copies of memorandums from D’Agostino to the state attorney’s office and asked that the allegations in the memo be investigated. The city hired a separate investigator to look into the matter as did Faiella. During the last seven months, Faiella said she tried to remain positive as the investigation unfolded.
“I really didn’t have it affect me at all because I knew what the outcome (would be),” Faiella said. “And that’s why, I kept telling people, ‘Let the investigation take place and the truth is there at the end.’
“I just knew it was out there and I wanted to put it behind me, have it done and move forward now.”
The findings conclude a chapter of the lengthy legal issue regarding whether Faiella played a role in City Manager Jerry Bentrott’s decision to terminate the contract of former police chief Donald Shinnamon. Bentrott fired Shinnamon on Dec. 2, 2010, shortly after Faiella was elected mayor.
“It’s been a roller coaster because of first the hostile work environment (claim) and then other allegations that came out of it, but you know what, we rise above this and we move on now,” Faiella said.
In D’Agostino’s memo on Dec. 17, which was addressed to Bentrott, D’Agostino wrote he was told by Shinnamon to watch his back because of potential retaliation by Faiella. D’Agostino wrote that Shinnamon told him he had been fired after Faiella put pressure on Bentrott to make the move.
When interviewed by FDLE, Bentrott said he had planned to fire Shinnamon in the late summer of 2010 but did not want the firing to become an issue during the November election. Bentrott said no one influenced him to make the decision.
According to the report, Bentrott told investigators “probably all of the City Council members, both of the old council and the new council ... were aware that I was going to do this.”
Shinnamon had alleged that Bentrott had been told to fire Shinnamon or else the council would get someone who would. Bentrott denied making that statement, according to the FDLE report.
Shinnamon also told D’Agostino, according to the Dec. 17 memo, that he believed Faiella was planning retribution against D’Agostino, Maj. Gary Robinson and Lt. Roberto Santos because of a February 2009 memo released in November 2010 accusing Faiella of falsifying gang data during her time as a crime analyst with the police department. The memo was written by Santos to D’Agostino.
The Feb. 25, 2009, memo made public after Faiella was elected mayor Nov. 2 accuses her of admitting to falsifying gang member data while she worked in the crime and intelligence analysis unit so the police department could be eligible for federal grant money.
She has denied the allegations and said they are part of a complaint she filed against the police department with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging gender discrimination.
Faiella voluntarily transferred out of the crime intelligence and analysis unit and went to the records division in April 2009, according to records. Faiella, who made $38,396 annually as a crime intelligence analyst took a 5 percent pay cut to become a records specialist. She transferred out of the crime and intelligence analysis unit before filing the EEOC complaint. She began working in the police department in August 2002 as a police service aide.
The FDLE investigation also looked into allegations that Faiella offered another council seat to two former candidates in exchange for their support in the mayoral race. The allegations stemmed from a meeting at Applebee’s restaurant and a phone call to Victoria Huggins where Faiella was accused of offering support in future elections to help get votes for her mayoral run.
“The second criminal allegation, that Candidate JoAnn Faiella offered Jack Kelly’s council seat to either Victoria Huggins or Al Hickey in exchange for support of Faiella in the mayoral race is also lacking in credible