The Ocala City Council voted Friday to accept Police Chief Greg Graham’s request to be placed on paid administrative leave until the end of an investigation into accusations from three officers of sexual harassment, hostile treatment, retaliation and discrimination.
Graham’s attorney, Edward McClellan, sent a letter to Mayor Kent Guinn on Graham’s behalf on Wednesday requesting to be placed on leave, along with provisions for Graham to contact Deputy Chief Rodney Smith during the duration of the investigation “in an effort to assist OPD in fulfilling its primary function of safeguarding the community.” The same letter stated that Graham denies the allegations.
Last week, Attorney Bobi Frank filed a grievance against Graham in which three Ocala Police Department officers, Rachel Mangum, Casey Walsh and T.J. Watts, accused Graham of misconduct.
Frank and council members discussed whether Graham should be allowed to contact Smith out of concerns that it would jeopardize the investigation.
“Throughout this process, every person within that department could potentially – or already is – a witness,” Frank said.
“Deputy Smith has been with OPD 28 years,” said council member Mary Sue Rich. “I would be safe in saying he knows just about as much as the chief does. I don’t think he would have to ask the chief anything while he’s overseeing the police department.”
However, Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn argued that it was necessary for Smith to be able to contact Graham.
“We’re currently going through our accreditation … We’re hiring 21 officers right now, and he may or may not need to speak to him about that. He does need to call from time to time.”
The council voted to allow Smith to contact Graham if needed – however, no one from the department would be allowed to contact Graham on Smith’s behalf.
Council members also discussed whether Graham should be suspended or be placed on paid administrative leave, and voted to opt for leave.
“’Suspend’ does have a connotation to it that we’re judging one way or the other,” said City Manager John Zobler.
The investigation is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 20, however McClellan is wary.
“I think everybody has that as a goal, but as I’ve continued to work on [the investigation] the whole week, finding out things about it myself, it’s going to be quite a burden,” said McClellan.
Guinn emphasized that the police department will continue to function as normal, despite the change in leadership.
“Life goes on and continues to move,” said Guinn. “The city doesn’t stop.”
The City Council voted on Tuesday night to begin suspension proceedings, despite objections from Mayor Kent Guinn, who has spoken in support of Graham. The resolution on Tuesday to begin the suspension process passed by a 4-1 vote.
A special meeting was held today, after ethics hearings on Wednesday, to determine if the council would place Graham on leave and how long his suspension would last.