Inquiry: No Violations for St. Augustine Beach Chief; Hedges Was Accused of Ethics Lapses by Nine of His Officers

Article excerpt

Byline: Peter Guinta

ST. AUGUSTINE | There is "no probable cause to believe" that St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Richard Hedges is guilty of the ethics violations that nine of his officers said he committed, according to a state ethics investigator's report.

Tallahassee lawyer Diane L. Guillemette, an advocate for the Florida Commission on Ethics, described each of the reports of violations, then provided a brief analysis of how she came to each decision.

The final determination on Hedges in these ethics matters rests with the Commission on Ethics. Guillemette's report is a recommendation to that commission.

On May 10, nine of the city's 14 police officers issued an extensive report containing multiple and wide-ranging allegations against Hedges.

The City Commission suspended him with pay pending a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation. But the FDLE has yet to question Hedges, said his attorney, Patrick Canan,

He said the state ethics report makes him believe even more that the complaints are not credible.

MAYOR PERKS

The first complaint involved Hedges allowing former Mayor Frank Charles to drive police vehicles for personal use and that the chief later changed the city's vehicle-use policy to "cover the incident."

The ethics investigator's report cited Florida's Misuse of Public Position statute that defines "corruptly" as meaning any action done by a public official with a wrongful intent and for the purpose of receiving a benefit.

The investigator found that this definition did not apply.

Charles was helping Hedges deliver police vehicles for maintenance, repair and pickup, the report said.

"The mayor denies having used a police vehicle to go to any of his business locations . …