Former inspector general for Fort Myers police files whistleblower complaint

Published: January 7, 2022 4:29 PM EST
Updated: January 8, 2022 9:53 AM EST

The former inspector general for the Fort Myers Police Department has filed a whistleblower complaint against both the city and the police department.

Donald Oswald resigned in October after accusing then Major William Newhouse of making an unethical order to a subordinate.

Oswald alleged Newhouse told a lieutenant not to tell city council about potential cost overruns for the new police headquarters at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Fowler Street.

Oswald now wants lost wages and repayment of attorney fees in addition to his job back.

In the complaint, Oswald accused the city and the police department of violating Florida’s Whistleblower Act.

He said he was “illegally discharged” from his positions.

Oswald was not fired, but he resigned.

He told WINK News in interviews that he believes Fort Myers police Chief Derrick Diggs forced him out of his position in retaliation.

Oswald has not returned a request for comment.

His complaint against Newhouse sparked an internal affairs investigation.

Two days after Diggs signed off on the results, that Oswald’s allegations were unfounded, the chief ordered a second investigation, but this time into Oswald.

The complaint against Oswald was made by Robert Burandt, Newhouse’s attorney.

Burandt said he filed a complaint against Oswald because he told WINK News and police department investigators that he went to the mayor and city attorney about his allegations against Newhouse before he filed his internal affairs complaint.

“That’s actually a misdemeanor,” Burandt said.

The allegation against Oswald was sustained, signed off by the same woman who cleared Newhouse. The internal affairs investigation reveals the investigator asked the mayor and city attorney to be interviewed, but none of them complied.

The mayor declined not to give an interview based on advice provided by the city attorney. The city attorney never replied to the request.

It was also sustained by Diggs.

“It was substantiated because he admitted that he called people outside the agency and disclose this confidential information,” Burandt said.

Former police officer and FGCU professor of forensics Dave Thomas said the longer this plays out, the more damage will be done to the department.

This is all policing politics, Thomas said.

“I hope that the public recognizes that it’s not the men and women who are taking those calls and responding to calls for service. They look at this as an administrative thing. And that they, that the public, can separate those two things. Oftentimes, that doesn’t happen,” Thomas said.

The conflict is still not resolved.

The city has contracted a professional consulting firm to evaluate the investigations surrounding Oswald’s allegations.

The City of Fort Myers’ response: 

The City of Fort Myers has received a copy of Mr. Oswald’s whistleblower complaint, ushered through www.whistleblower.org. However, as the community may recall, Mr. Oswald suddenly resigned from his position in October at his own accord. He was not terminated, no disciplinary action was taken against him, and his role with the City was not hindered as a result of how he chose to approach and pursue his position as Inspector General.

The City has now contracted with a professional consulting firm to evaluate the investigations surrounding Mr. Oswald’s allegations, in order to achieve full transparency and reiterate best practices in this and all departments moving forward.

Fort Myers Police Department’s response: 

Per Fort Myers Police Department General Order 7.1

It shall be the policy of the Fort Myers Police Department to investigate all complaints, to include anonymous complaints as further provided herein, made against any employee of this department. (CALEA 26.2.1)

The complaint against former Inspector General Donald Oswald has been investigated and completed pursuant to department policy.