WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — An internal affairs investigation appears to have satisfied all sides in the city Police Department, exonerating both Chief Delsa Bush for voiding a jaywalking ticket and the police officer accused of writing it to retaliate against a city employee.
The loser in the investigation was the city's risk analyst, Sharagay Esposito, who claimed Officer Gerald Chaparro wrote the June 17 ticket after she reported him for driving unsafely three days earlier.
Esposito first told the city's internal investigators that she would challenge the ticket in court, but she paid the $64.50 fine Monday, court records show.
Bush ordered the investigation, which was completed Tuesday, on the heels of the State Attorney Office's probe into her handling of the ticket. State rules say that only the officer who writes a ticket can void it. The rules say "it is unlawful and official misconduct" to throw out a ticket using any method not outlined in Florida law.
The State Attorney's Office closed its case in July, saying Bush broke no laws, although she may have acted improperly.
"From the beginning of her involvement, Chief Bush was transparent in regard to her course of action," internal investigators wrote. "Chief Bush felt, at face value, the citation appeared retaliatory, which violated Ms. Esposito's 'fundamental rights.' "
Bush, who in August submitted a letter of resignation only to rescind it days later, and Assistant Police Chief Dennis Crispo recused themselves from the internal investigation, and it was signed off by Capt. Mary Olsen.
The internal investigation found that Chaparro was speeding June 14 to get to the scene of a crash involving another officer and a suspect who was on the loose. Chaparro accelerated at the intersection of Quadrille Boulevard and Clematis Street but had to slow down because of several jaywalking pedestrians, including Esposito.
Esposito told investigators she reported Chaparro speeding because "one of her responsibilities is to report unsafe acts by employees to department heads. If a risk-analyst can reduce liability to the city they have a duty to do so."
Three days later, Chaparro again witnessed Esposito jaywalking. A video clip shows two other people also crossing the street illegally.
After Chaparro apprehended Esposito, she accused him of harassing her. She said she didn't realize it was the same officer she had reported until she saw the number on his police car while he was writing the citation.
"You gotta be kidding me. You're the guy I just called in on two days ago," Esposito told Chaparro. He told Esposito he was recording their interaction on his iPhone.
Chaparro said he had been en route to an emergency three days earlier and she should not have "called him in."
Esposito asked Chaparro for Assistant Police Chief Crispo's phone number. Esposito told Chaparro she would file an internal affairs complaint. He said he previously witnessed her jaywalking, which is why he cited her. Only four jaywalking tickets have been issued since 2006, city records reveal.
City Commissioner Bill Moss, a friend of Esposito, said he suggested Esposito speak to Bush. Moss was not mentioned in the internal investigation report, and he said he would recommend any person with a police complaint to speak with Bush, and that he wasn't trying to give Esposito preferential treatment.
Esposito did so, and Bush voided the ticket. However, the ticket later mysteriously appeared in the court system.
According to the internal investigation, an unknown person found the voided ticket, which had an incorrect statue number on it. The ticket ended up in Chaparro's mailbox, and he filed it to the county clerk's office June 27, knowing Bush had voided it. An internal affairs officer said Chaparro did not violate any policy by correcting the statue number and filing the voided ticket to the county clerk.
"I have no opinion one way or the other on (Esposito's) decision to pay the ticket, but I'm still baffled as to how a ticket gets to the clerks' office when it said it was voided," Bush said today.
An internal affairs investigator said the review could not prove that Chaparro was retaliating against Esposito. The investigator said an even higher standard than "beyond a reasonable doubt" is used before finding an officer guilty of wrongdoing.
The investigator also said the internal affairs office didn't feel Bush needed to be investigated because she had been cleared by the State Attorney's Office. However, internal affairs felt obligated to rule on the chief's behavior because the incident was high-profile.
Both Esposito and Chaparro were not available for comment. The investigation did determine that the city's citation cancellation report is "archaic and should
be evaluated for improvement. Investigators will forward suggestions for improvement to Chief Bush."
Staff Writer Michael LaForgia contributed to this report