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Independent FMPD review on handling of budget complaint, criticizes department, finds no violation

Posted at 6:53 PM, Apr 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-15 18:53:56-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — How well did Police Chief Derrick Diggs handle claims of corruption in his department?

The claims surfaced during a conversation about the new police headquarters going over budget.

The City of Fort Myers ordered an independent review to examine how the department responded.

The report, conducted by Jensen Hughes, will be presented to city council on Monday, but FOX 4 received a copy of it on Friday.

What started as a conversation became a complicated issue.

At the center of it all is how a group of law enforcement officers interpreted a statement made by the now retired commander overseeing the new headquarters project.

The project’s then Inspector General Donald Oswald - who resigned in October 2021 - claimed that Commander William Newhouse ordered a lieutenant at a meeting not to tell the city council that the project’s budget had more than doubled.

This independent review looked at how Chief Diggs handled Oswald’s ethics complaint, and the outcome of the internal affairs investigation that the chief ordered.

On Thursday, Officer Kristen Capuzzi issued a statement saying quote:

“FMPD believes in the highest level of accountability which is why Chief Diggs initially asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the complaint against the former Major. 

Unfortunately, it was not within FDLE’s parameters. Chief Diggs also met with the City Attorney requesting his office, or an outside law firm, conduct the investigation, but those requests were denied.

To ensure a fair and impartial investigation, Chief Diggs removed the former Major from the process. FMPD stands behind its investigation. The Department will carefully review the recommendations from Jensen Hughes.”

Commander Newhouse was over internal affairs. The chief removed Newhouse and internal affairs proceeded.

The independent investigation followed.

The review did not find any violations in removing Newhouse, but investigators strongly recommended more should’ve been done to remove all possibility of favoritism. That includes bringing in another agency.

The review also agreed that Commander Newhouse did give “an order.”

But because four different people at the meeting remembered his statement differently, the investigation could not prove anything further.

The review also said the complainant, Donald Oswald, did not cooperate in a follow-up interview.

We spoke with his attorney on Friday.

"I told the review board that we weren't going to cover that subject. The review was specifically hired to assess the integrity of the police department's investigation,” David Sieke says.

The report also found fault with the chief’s final decision to call the claims unfounded. It also states that according to department policy, the final outcome should have been called “not sustained”.

The union lawyer representing Commander Newhouse called this entire process “a waste of money.”