MOUNT DORA, Fla. – The Mount Dora police chief has been relieved of duties after an investigation stemming from an inappropriate remark he made led to the uncovering of potential ethics violations and other complaints.
Mount Dora police Chief John O'Grady was supposed to present an award to the couple who owns Las Palmas restaurant in April. Since a medical emergency kept the couple from attending, the chief allowed a Hispanic officer to accept the award on their behalf.
He reportedly said the officer should accept the award by saying, "Here, come take this, these are your people."
The officer replied by saying she's Puerto Rican and O'Grady said, "same thing," according to the report. The officer described the situation in a hostile work complaint as offensive and humiliating.
City attorney Sherry Sutphen said that effective immediately, O'Grady will no longer serve as police chief or director of public safety.
“The investigation concluded that there was overwhelming evidence of a department fraught with distrust and a lack of respect for O’Grady’s leadership. It also concluded that O’Grady engaged in behavior unbecoming of a city of Mount Dora employee," she said.
During the investigation, several other allegations into O'Grady's behavior surfaced. Employees said the chief regularly made comments that were meant to get under their skin, although those remarks did not rise to the level of harassment or discrimination.
In one instance, a young female employee said O'Grady called her to his office and had her open a package for him, saying, "Whose life is more important?"
Employees also reported apparent favoritism and other ethical concerns, according to the report.
O'Grady altered the department's ride-along program in order to let minors be involved without ever consulting the city attorney in order to help a friend, the investigation found. He also failed to notify human resources or the legal department when a female office filed a complaint against her supervisor. Instead, he brushed off the complaint, attributing it to a conflict of personalities.
The report says that supervisor, who was not named, was placed on leave after an unrelated inappropriate conduct complaint.
A traffic stop mandate was also cited as problematic for officers who said they felt like they were forced to pull over drivers for minor offenses, including driving 5 mph over the speed limit, in order to meet required targets even if that meant avoiding stops that would require more time.
The same employee who filed the initial complaint outlined other incidents involving O'Grady. She said in November 2017, she found a puppy wandering while on patrol and couldn't find the owners so she took it to the police station, where O'Grady decided to take it home until the owners could be found.
When the owners came by the next day, O'Grady said he'd already given it to a family friend who he thought would take care of it. He then tried to pressure animal services to issue a citation and look for potential code enforcement violations so the owners would release the dog to police custody rather than pay the fines, records show.
A lieutenant persuaded O'Grady to return the dog to the original owners in order to avoid a scandal.
She said O'Grady would ignore her in front of other employees yet call her multiple times a week, including when she was off-duty, to have her translate for O'Grady's Spanish-speaking landscapers.
"I believe Chief O'Grady has created a hostile work environment in MDPD whereby women and minorities are targets for jokes and disrespect," the officer wrote in her complaint.
Acting Chief Robert Bell will continue serving in the role until a formal search can be conducted.
To read the report in its entirety, click here.