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Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Lake City Police Department: Capt Robert Smith Fired - Another Police Capt Goes Down

Captain Robert Smith at his swearing in ceremony at City Hall.

LAKE CITY, FL – Since the hiring of Lake City, City Manager Wendell Johnson and Police Chief Argatha Gilmore, being a member of the Lake City Police Department command staff has put those on the top on a roller coaster ride to unemployment, reductions in rank, resignations and lawsuits. Yesterday, Captain Robert Smith's number came up.

Yesterday afternoon, April 24, 2012, at 2:43 pm, the LCPD sent out a press release announcing that Capt. Robert Smith was terminated. The press release presents a series of dates in a timeline which purports to be the facts supporting Chief Gilmore's decision to terminate Capt. Smith. Capt. Smith was hired as second-in-command of the LCPD on October 11, 2010.

Where does this story begin?

It is difficult to tell where the story begins and while various issues were percolating in the background since the time Capt. Smith was hired, things seemed to come to a head shortly after the shooting incident in which three Lake City police officers were injured.

Capt. Smith took exception to Chief Gilmore leaving the scene in the middle of the shootout. City Manager Wendell Johnson got involved. Bad feelings permeated the department. The community took sides.

On October 17, 2011, Capt. Smith met with the former LCPD Captain Rudolph Davis to obtain the name of his attorney. Mr. Davis is involved in a federal lawsuit against the City regarding his termination.

Ten days later, Capt. Smith was served with a subpoena to appear at a deposition. The case was Rudolph Davis versus City of Lake City.

According to Capt. Smith, during the first week of November 2011, City Manager Johnson called him into his office and questioned him about his forthcoming testimony at the Davis deposition.

On November 6, 2011, Capt. Smith wrote a letter to Chief Gilmore and complained that he was being targeted for retaliation.

On November 15, 2011, Capt. Smith was placed on administrative leave with pay while the City investigated his charges of retaliation.

On December 12, 2011, City Manager Johnson extended the City's investigation of Capt. Smith.

On December 14, 2011, Capt. Smith filed a complaint against the City with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Gainesville PD to Investigate Capt Smith

On December 15, 2011, Lake City turned over the Smith investigation to the Internal Affairs Division of the Gainesville Police Department.

Three weeks later on January 5, 2012, Capt. Smith was informed by Lieut. Hayes of the Gainesville PD that he was the subject of an internal affairs investigation.

On February 29, 2012, Capt. Smith was interview by Gainesville's IA investigator Lt. Hayes by phone.

Lake City Police Department policy number 117 states that an internal affairs investigation must be completed within 45 days. The policy allows the investigation to be extended beyond 45 days if more time is needed.

On March 16, 2012, Capt. Smith appeared for his second Internal Affairs interview. At that time the record reflects that Capt. Smith advised Lieut. Hayes that the 45 day time limit had passed. Lieut. Hayes ended the interview. Ninety five days had passed.

Capt. Smith told the Observer that at that time he had not objected to continuing the interview.

On March 20, 2012, Chief Gilmore retroactively extended the internal affairs investigation which began on December 15, 2012. Ninety nine days had passed.

March 26, 2012 - A big day

In and around March 26, 2012, Lake City's Attorney concluded that LCPD Capt. Smith could not be held to the Gainesville IA investigatory 180 rule.

Chief Gilmore maintained that Capt. Smith was bound by the Florida statutes 180 day rule, not the more restrictive 45 day rule of Lake City.

Lieut. Hayes of the Gainesville Police Department, in an e-mail to Capt. Smith, stated in relevant part that the city attorney

"does not believe you can be held to the policies of the Gainesville Police Department and I concur. Mr. Stadler [Lake City's Attorney] did believe that you could waive the 45 day rule. I request clarification from you/your representative on if you would waive the 45 day rule and be amenable to a second interview?

On April 10, 2012, Capt. Smith was ordered to schedule an interview with Lieut. Hayes of the Gainesville Police Department Internal Affairs Division.

On April 13, 2012, Capt. Smith, on the advice of counsel, refused to appear for any more internal affairs investigations.

On April 24, 2012, Lake City Police Chief Argatha Gilmore, with the full support of City Manager Wendell Johnson, fired police Capt. Robert Smith for willful failure to follow a direct order.

Epilogue

Who is going to be next?

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