For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF
On 7-22-2016, Lt. Frank Forte gave a statement to the Internal Affairs division of the Escambia County Sheriffs Office (ECSO). His statement was about a complaint he filed concerning court testimony of another officer. The officer, Sgt. Philip Nix, was a witness to a parking citation that had been issued on Pensacola Beach. Dep. David Cripe wrote a citation that he had been ordered not to issue. Sgt. Nix had instructed Dep. Cripe that a vehicle parked on the curb had asked permission and he was aware of the parked vehicles. Sgt. Nix also was aware that an ongoing issue about the parking area had not been resolved. The issue was about the parking area having legal marking to make a citation legal if issued.
Lt. Forte had been informed of the issue concerning parking by Dep. Cripe. This occurred on a Saturday morning, in January, on Pensacola Beach. The temperature was near freezing and the day not exactly a busy summer day. Parking was not creating any hardship for any person at the beach. Sgt. Nix had stated that it was not a situation that required any need for concern. The issue of parking was not a major concern and the incident was not one that could be considered urgent. Now, consider that Lt. Forte is involved. Situation becomes a major issue because in true fashion Lt. Forte must be center of attention. He could never miss an opportunity to flex his muscles and prove he is in charge.
Sgt. Nix left the beach from the duty assignment he was working. Shortly after Sgt. Nix left Dep Cripe rushed to the parked vehicles and issued citations. This action by Dep. Cripe is completed with the blessing of Lt. Forte. Later, Lt. Forte is quoted as saying “I don’t give a shit what he ordered” referring to Sgt. Nix instructing Dep. Cripe to not issue citations. Lt. Forte gave no consideration to the people that had been informed by a law enforcement officer to park in a location that he was now ordering citations to be issued. His ego controlled a decision to be made that cause innocent people to be caught up in a temper tantrum he was having against Sgt. Nix. Lt. Forte was more concerned about proving Sgt. Nix was not going to control “his Beach” and this point would be made by citing unsuspecting individuals with a ticket costing around $130.00. Lt. Forte didn’t even think about the fact Sgt. Nix wouldn’t be impacted by the decision. It would only impact the individual Sgt. Nix didn’t know receiving a ticket. Lt. Forte was caught up in proving he was in charge and flexing his muscle. This mentality is why he has been forced to bribe officers to even work for him, by buying sunglasses, if they transfer to him. The same reason he failed to motivate his shifts to the point he offered cash rewards for completing expected job requirements to officers that met a defined goal. He failed to even consider he was violating the law with providing gifts for doing a job.
Getting back to the citations on the beach, recipients of the tickets contested them. Sgt. Nix was subpoenaed to court to testify about the facts of the case. Sgt. Nix appeared in court as required. The testimony he gave was brief and to the point when asked questions concerning the citations and his involvement. Lt. Forte was in the courtroom when Sgt. Nix gave testimony. Lt. Forte falsely report back to ECSO administration that the testimony given by Sgt. Nix was considered “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer”. Lt. Forte explained that Lt. Nix made statements that were derogatory toward the ECSO and stated Sgt. Nix made critical remarks about the agency that were shocking.
The traffic hearing occurred on 6-10-2016. After confirming the traffic court had not been recorded by any type of court reporter, an internal investigation was ordered to be completed on Sgt. Nix. The investigation was based on the complaint made by Lt. Forte. At that point, the only evidence would have been the statements given by those that witnessed the court hearing. The case would relied on the memory and recall of those that were in the court room on the day of the hearing. Lt. Forte was one of the individuals that provided a statement concerning the conduct in the hearing that Sgt. Nix gave testimony. It would be safe to assume that Sgt. Nix didn’t have much of a chance with this investigation. Lt. Forte had previously given an opinion of what he believed had occurred. He was the person actually responsible for the complaint.
On 7-22-2016, Lt. Forte gave a statement concerning the testimony of Sgt. Nix. The statement was under oath. He was asked if he had knowledge of the incident. Lt. Forte responded with a response that took 5 transcribed pages to document. Lt. Forte included statements that he heard Sgt. Nix say the ECSO wrote illegal tickets routinely and have for years. He stated that Sgt. Nix was blurting out statements with being asked questions. He continued with testimony that made Sgt. Nix appear out of control and obviously not acting in a professional manner. Lt. Fortes statement described an officer that needed to be not only disciplined but for the discipline to be harsh up to even termination. This statement was the best evidence because there was not a court transcript. The issue came down to Lt. Fortes word against Sgt. Nix’s word.
On 8-31-2016, Sgt. Nix was interviewed by internal affairs investigators regarding the court appearance. Sgt. Nix reviewed the evidence and statements that had been given to this point. Sgt. Nix noticed that Lt. Forte was a confirmed liar and had no intent on being truthful. When compared to actual events, the statement of Lt. Forte could not be recognized as the same hearing that Sgt. Nix had appeared at causing this investigation. Lt. Forte made statements that were absolutely false and had no truth to them. Lt. Forte lied consistently through the entire statement concerning the conduct of Sgt. Nix. Lt. Forte had the belief he could say whatever he wanted to say because he knew the ECSO had not been able to receive a transcript of the actual hearing. It was not available from the clerk’s office.
Sgt. Nix had anticipated the possibility that there could be an issue with Lt. Forte and the court appearance concerning the parking tickets. Sgt. Nix was able to provide an official transcript of the court hearing. The court hearing had been documented by a court reporter at the expense of Sgt. Nix. Knowing Lt. Forte had the reputation of being a liar and avoiding truthful statements when it did not benefit his cause he hired a court reporter. Sgt. Nix was able to prove that Lt. Forte was the liar that he had always been believed Lt. Forte to be. It was in black and white. Lt. Forte gave a statement that was a complete lie and there was an official transcript that proved Lt. Forte had lied while under oath.
Sgt. Nix having a copy of a court transcript prompted an investigation against Lt. Forte for being untruthful. In true ECSO fashion Lt. Forte was exonerated because he said he didn’t have a chance to review the transcript. Had Sgt. Nix not paid for a court reporter there would not have been a transcript. I guess Lt. Forte can only be expected to tell the truth if he has an opportunity to review what can be used against him if he decides to be a liar. Most law enforcement issues that require a statement do not have transcript’s available to rely on when giving testimony from memory of an incident. This mentality would suggest unless Lt. Forte has little credibility when being judged on honesty. Lt. Forte said his statement would have not been the same if he could have had a chance to read the court transcript before his statement under oath. What that actually means is he would have been truthful if he would have known he would get caught in a lie. It is possible there are people that have suffered from his testimony in the past. If he would lie about another officer, because of a personal vendetta, it is not a stretch to think he would lie to look like a competent cop.
Now, the ECSO has made the decision to place Lt. Forte as Officer in Charge of Internal Affairs. Let that sink in for a minute. A known and proven liar placed in a position to investigate officers that have had complaints on them. He knows that if you are in favorable position with the administration an investigation of a complaint will be directed toward being covered up. He knows because he was the benefactor of such an investigation. If there is not a case against an officer, he can control information to appear the officer is at fault. The most tragic part of this is the officers that are continually subjected to the incompetent leadership of this administration. There is not a scenario that one could imagine that would make Lt. Forte a good choice for a position that should require honesty and integrity. There should not be a surprise here because the administration has proven there is not a requirement to have honesty or integrity. In fact, you don’t even need ability. All you need is the desire to carry water for the powers that be regardless of how deplorable they may be.
Recently promotions were made at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. Congratulations to one that deserved the promotion. Sgt. Tom Kelly was promoted and now Is Lt. Kelly. This IS an actual promotion that should have happen and Lt. Kelly can perform at a level expected by the officers under his command. He will be an example of leadership and professionalism. Many officers will have a chance to observe real supervision, that has become folk lore at the ECSO, for the first time in their career. ‘
Now, let’s talk about another– Lt. Frank Forte was promoted to 1st Lt Forte. While Frank will brag as if he had the winning numbers to the Mega PowerBall about this promotion but it is truly lackluster when compared to the other promotions. In fact, anybody should be insulted if they are compared to Forte. He has performed every cut throat task with diligence second to none, except maybe Morgan. He was passed over for promotion when those promoted had half the years of experience as he does and they were promoted to much higher positions. Because Frank lacks morals and integrity, he was promoted to a position that will allow him to be used. He will carry water for Haines and allow plausible deniability when Haines deploys one of his search and destroy missions. Add the fact that Frank is a documented liar and Haines has the perfect minion for his devious duty assignments. Frank is incompetent, dishonest, and vindictive. All the boxes are checked for what Haines expects from a person running Internal Affairs Investigations.
It could be also that Frank needed to be removed from any position that allowed further destruction of an already weak morale level of current employees. Frank has also been called out for offering rewards for law enforcement activity when assigned to a shift. His failed leadership style reduced him to paying, presumably from his own pocket, and what officers are already hired to do. A law enforcement leader should know that is improper and that process should alert those with decision making authority to look for a problem. A quick glance would reveal Frank had to bribe officers with gifts to request an assignment to his command and he paid officers extra to simply do their job. This conduct does not have any characteristic of what one would consider a valuable leadership tool.
Now, to another individual that was promoted—Lt. Ken Simmons. He was elevated to the rank of captain. It appears he has begun to reap the rewards of a relative (Chip Simmons -Sheriff candidate and current Chief Deputy) being in high places. His career has been less than notable to this point. He has few qualities that separate him from the pack and a reputation that is less than honorable. No special training, education or accomplishment that would qualify him for advancement ahead of others except for having a brother as Chief Deputy. The obvious question would be if this is a nepotism violation. I believe the law concerning nepotism is clear and this will be a promotion that is reversed in time. Haines would know this but agreed to not fight it so he could avoid being blamed at a future time.
Moving along there are 3 sergeant position that were elevated to captain or above and a deputy position elevated to captain. One would pause to wonder how you promote sergeants all of whom were inadequate for a lieutenant’s position to a staff position. That is a kick to the teeth of the good officers that earned their position on the list for lieutenants. I assume the message to the ones that took the time to study for a test and dedicate the time to do well is, don’t waste your time and become a member of staff. Apparently, staff is seeking known failures and skipping the process to discover the individuals promoted are failures. This idea of leadership is the reason the ECSO has evolved into an agency that is ineffective and embarrassing to the citizens it serves.
There will be more to report soon. The monster that is known as David Morgan will continue to allow the destruction of the ECSO by the hands of Haines. He will continue to claim victory when placing last and fail to build leaders tasked with protecting our county. If Chip continues to ignore these failures and associate himself with this failed administration, as he has consistently done since taking his oath, he will prove he is not the person we should support for our next law enforcement leader. Some may even believe he is just a continuation of Morgan. The rumors of infidelity could be true and Haines has the relevant information to control Chip. There are few facts to support Chip being worthy of election at this point. There are many facts to cause one to believe he is only an extension of the failed Morgan administration. A brother is promoted, failed first line supervisors brought into the administration, failure to be a leader when deputies’ rightful raises were being extorted, rumors of infidelity being leveraged against Chip, and Chip is silent all the way through it all. That adds up to incompetence or corruption. Chip should either speak up or step away from Morgan. Staying the course he is on, only indicates he is the wrong person for the job.