CRESTVIEW — A secret meeting of cops that helped lead to Police Chief Tony Taylor’s dismissal has now resulted in the firing of two more officers and severe discipline for a third.
The Crestview Police Department announced Wednesday that Officer Christine Dawson and Investigator Shawn Temple had been terminated.
K9 officer Jay Seals was placed on a year’s probation, stripped of his K-9 and SWAT team membership and fined four days pay.
“We don’t want to dismiss an officer, but if someone does something improper, we have to follow state statutes as well as our own policies and the city’s,” Deputy Police Chief Jamie Grant said.
An internal investigation found that Dawson, and to a lesser extent Temple, had been the primary forces involved in arranging a meeting at Speck Pond on military property in Walton County. The purpose of the meeting, investigators found, was “to conspire to have members of the command staff terminated for undetermined reasons.”
The group, counting on the backing of Taylor, was specifically out to get command staff members Grant and Andrew Schneider, the investigation found. Dawson, it was learned, brought a manila folder bearing a list of her personal complaints to the May 8 meeting at Speck Pond.
Six officers showed up. Several of them, including Temple, drove city-issued vehicles. Those interviewed other than the three disciplined said they were leery of the motives behind the gathering, but came because Dawson and Temple told them Chief Taylor had said attendance was mandatory.
The meeting broke up when Taylor, who on the same day had been called into a staff officer meeting, contacted Dawson to let her know he would not attend.
Crestview Mayor David Cadle had called the second meeting after learning of the first, the investigative report said.
A news release issued by the Police Department on Wednesday said Dawson and Temple had been fired for violating written agency directives, distracting others on the police force, violating laws relating to the Police Department's code of ethics and contributing to a hostile work force.
Taylor, who had been Crestview’s police chief since 2012 and helped restore confidence in the agency following a corruption scandal that was raging when he was hired, was fired by Cadle June 8. He had been placed on administrative leave the same week as Dawson, Temple and Seals.
Cadle’s report on Taylor's firing cites many of the same details of the Speck pond meeting as the internal investigation.
A supplementary report compiled by Schneider and added to the mayor’s report states that Taylor had denied knowledge at the command staff meeting that he had agreed to attend the Speck Pond gathering. Schneider expressed concerns that Taylor had “blatantly lied” to the mayor and the command staff.
Tiffany Cruz, a Tallahassee attorney representing Taylor, Dawson, Seals and Temple, called Crestview’s investigation poorly conducted with sole objective of firing her clients.
“We believe that the firings and demotion are retaliatory and discriminatory actions,” Cruz said. “My clients will be taking the necessary steps to proceed with their claims against the city by filing their charges of discrimination with the (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)."