There’s a reason why Fort Pierce experienced such a drastic drop in crime from 2015 to 2016. LAURIE K. BLANDFORD/TCPALM
FORT PIERCE — The city forwarded a complaint against Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for investigation, records show.
City Attorney James Messer on Tuesday sent Richard Reed’s complaint alleging harassment by the police chief and calling for her firing.
Reed, a restaurant-owner and frequent critic of the city, has carried on his public dispute with Hobley-Burney for more than a year. She was suspended for five days and placed on probation for 90 days after a complaint Reed submitted in 2016.
In the most recent complaint, Reed claimed Hobley-Burney orchestrated an incident in which Reed was accused of harassing and following a woman after a Sept. 18 city commissioners meeting.
“Due to the complaint possibly having criminal implications, it would be better served to be investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement,” the city’s human resources manager, Kevin Browning, wrote in a Nov. 30 letter to City Manager Nick Mimms.
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Three women told police Reed followed one of them to her car and made a rude remark after the September meeting.
City Hall surveillance footage, which does not include audio, showed an exchange between the women and Reed before he walked out after one of them.
“These three women lied their heads off,” Reed said in the complaint. ”All three of the women who gave these perjured statements are known cronies of Fort Pierce Police Chief Hobley-Burney.”
Reed said it was part of a campaign of harassment.
“Chief Hobley-Burney attempted to set me up for Chief Hobley-Burney to either arrest me on false charges or to do me bodily harm,” he said. ”For more than a year, I have lived in constant fear and the retaliation against me has continued.”
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Reed criticized Hobley-Burney and the police department in 2016 about how they were handling the death of Demarcus Semer. Semer was shot while fleeing from police after a traffic stop. Hobley-Burney fired Officer Ralph Keith Holmes and Sgt. Brian MacNaught after the shooting.
The complaint for which Hobley-Burney was disciplined was filed in April 2016. He alleged the police chief threatened him after he mentioned her son’s criminal record in a city commissioners meeting.
He said she pointed at him and said, ”My son gonna get you,” in front of a group of people, according to the complaint.
The city launched an investigation and found Hobley-Burney brought two officers to a restaurant Reed frequents to discourage him mentioning her son’s arrest at the meeting.
Reed said her actions were intended to “intimidate and coerce me from speaking out.”
Hobley-Burney denied the charge.
“The message was to leave my family out of it,” she testified. “Not to threaten, intimidate, but there was a message.”
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Borthland Murray, a special investigator to the office of the chief of police, accused the chief of misusing her power after Reed and Commissioner Reginald B. Sessions expressed their dissatisfaction.
“I was directed by the chief of police to gather any and all information on the citizen and Commissioner Sessions to seek criminal charges,” Murray wrote in a July 2016 letter to the city commission.
When Hobley-Burney was disciplined in July 2016, her notice of disciplinary action indicated further incidents could result in her firing.
Fort Pierce Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney answers what message firing the two officers sends to the Police Department and the community.