Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wednesday Workshop - It's Time For Some Answers

Almost a month has gone by since it was reported in the Belle Isle Sun and on WFTV that City Manager Keith Severns directed Belle Isle Chief of Police Thomas Jackson to unarrest a suspect with personal ties to Mr. Severns.

Immediately after this revelation on July 3, Commissioner Lydia Pisano publicly stated that the Sergeant's signed report in this matter was somehow "innaccurate." Commissioner Pisano went on to state that the investigation into this incident would be underway the following week and that she would post the details of these supposed "inaccuracies" when they are available. You can find a complete record of Commissioner Pisano's statements below. Almost four weeks later, no new information or results have been made available by Commissioner Pisano or anyone else at City Hall.

On July 11, 2014, Commissioner Harvey Readey sent an open letter to the Mayor and City Council, requesting a special council session at the earliest opportunity to publicly discuss this issue. Unsurprisingly, Mayor Brooks and City Manager Keith Severns took no action to schedule the requested special session, or to even add this issue to the agenda for this week's workshop meeting.

But while it will be enlightening to learn more about the details of this incident, the basic facts are clear. It has already been admitted that City Manager Keith Severns made a phone call to Chief Jackson regarding an arrest in progress. In response, Chief Jackson made a phone call to the officer on duty requesting the release of the arrested suspect. The suspect was subsequently unarrested and released, despite specific Florida law requiring an arrest unless there are specific grounds, stated in writing, for not making the arrest.

The police report further indicates that this abuse and corruption may not be limited to a single recent incident. It is clear from the police report that the individual who called in this favor with Mr. Severns knew, with little question, that he would be able to get the arrest undone, either based his personal connection with Mr. Severns or because he had "poured too much money into this city for this to be happening." Furthermore, it appears from the police report that Chief Jackson knew to expect favors from "across the street" at City Hall in exchange for his compliance with Mr. Severns' request.

In addition to her above statements regarding alleged "inaccuracies" in the police report, Commissioner Lydia Pisano has also stated that Chief Jackson will be allowed to choose his own investigating agency in this matter. This statement has prompted concern amongst residents that the selected investigator may have personal or professional ties to Chief Jackson which would present a conflict of interest.

The identity of the lead investigator in this matter is presently unknown. However, the Florida Deparment of Law Enforcement has been contacted for further details regarding the identity of the investigator and the present status of the investigation.

The next City Council workshop meeting will take place this Wednesday, July 30 at 8:30 a.m. The primary item on the meeting agenda is the proposed 2014-2015 City Budget. But the issue of this recently-discovered corruption in our City will also be up for discussion at the option of any Commissioner. Residents have a right to know.

Lydia Pisano Discussing Belle Isle Corruption Incident

Workshop Meeting Agenda - July 30, 2014

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