Ethics commission claims Fort Myers police chief misused city purchase card

The Florida Commission on Ethics said it has found probable cause to believe Fort Myers Police Chief Derrick Diggs misused his city purchasing card.

The commission’s report details purchases for meals, boots, and a satellite radio subscription, among other purchases. It’s ordering a public hearing and a formal notice will go to Diggs.

A legal expert said that at the hearing, Diggs will have an opportunity to dispute the accusations or explain what happened.

“They are going to verify that there is a problem and that there was a violation of either a state law, or in this instance, the local policy,” said attorney Pamella Seay, a legal expert with Florida Gulf Coast University’s Department of Justice Studies.

The complaints filed against Diggs also accuse him of using his city purchasing card on extravagant dining and alcoholic beverages.

“If he has used it to purchase alcohol, that is a violation,” Seay said. “OK. Further, there is a strict restriction that the card is not to be used for recurring charges. Well, Sirius satellite radio is a recurring charge.”

Documents from the commission on ethics show Diggs said boots he purchased were a part of the uniform. The chief said the satellite radio subscription was to stay up to date on information as he traveled throughout the state.

“I don’t believe there is wrongdoing on the chief’s part,” said Councilman Kevin Anderson, who is running for Fort Myers mayor. “I think that the policy wasn’t written very well, and it allowed for some questionable charges, which to my knowledge, the chief has reimbursed the city for.”

Jacquelyn McMiller, another mayoral candidate, said this is an opportunity for the police department to build trust within the community.

“The citizens will have that opportunity to see and hear and know,” McMiller said. “And that’s the thing: we need to bring that trust back and make sure that this whole entire process is handled with transparency.”

Seay doesn’t believe there is intent behind these accusations. So she doesn’t think the accusations rise to the level of Diggs being removed from office.

“Make him go through training processes and to learn how it’s supposed to be done,” Seay said. “Now, that certainly is something that could be done. Could there be fines involved? Return the monies? Certainly.”

The FMPD released a statement saying the purchases were appropriate and within city policy, and the chief will fully cooperate with the review.

Mayor Randy Henderson said Diggs is a superior chief and if a mistake has been made, he is confident there will be a satisfactory resolution.

The commission could resolve this with a stipulation, settlement or consent order.

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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