FORT LAUDERDALE — Broward Sheriff’s Office chaplain the Rev. Richard “Rick” Braswell was told to gather his personal belongings and was then escorted from the Ron Cochran Public Safety building on Tuesday.
Braswell’s departure came less than a week after South Florida Times reported that he was the target of an internal investigation into workplace harassment and civil rights violation complaints.
Braswell, 65, of Coconut Creek, had been under investigation for allegedly harassing female employees and creating a hostile working environment, including hurling insults and screaming profanities at them.
Prior to his resignation Braswell had declined comment and has not returned calls or responded to emails from South Florida Times.
Sources said over the years several employees had complained about Braswell’s alleged mistreatment of them but the outcome of investigations into those allegations remains unknown. Some employees alleged that he groped them during what they described as “hugging” sessions. Others presented e-mails to support allegations of inappropriate conduct.
The latest investigation began after an employee in the Chaplain’s Office filed a complaint . During the investigation, statements were taken from other workers and their allegations were included as part of the probe.
BSO has not provided a copy of the investigation’s summary and findings, stating only that it would be released “when and if” it became available. Even though Braswell routinely gave interviews and was often photographed at public ceremonies, BSO has refused to provide his photograph, claiming an exemption under state law that is intended to shield law enforcement officers.
BSO has also not responded to a public records request for Braswell’s employment application. Nonetheless, South Florida Times has confirmed Braswell attended The Citadel, a military college located in Charleston, S.C., for one year, withdrawing in 1965 without a degree. He attended Furman College in Greenville, S.C., from 1967 to 1969 but did not graduate. He formally withdrew from Furman in 1970.
The Florida Secretary of State’s database shows Braswell became a notary public in 1993 and his commission expired in 1997. He is also a member of the National Sheriffs’ Association.
According to published reports, Braswell served as a volunteer chaplain for police departments in Dallas and Euless, Texas, as well as New Orleans. Officials at those departments, as well as the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, were unable to locate any record of him ever serving as chaplain.
Braswell also worked for the Fort Lauderdale police department, where he started its chaplain service. He joined BSO in 1989 when the late former sheriff Nick Navarro hired him as a caseworker.
In 1990, he became the department’s full-time chaplain and earned $103,438 a year. After 22 years on the job, he qualifies for a state pension but that could be in jeopardy, if he is found to have violated work rules or civil rights laws.
“Workplace misconduct can potentially be grounds for forfeiture of benefits,” said Kristopher Purcell, director of communications for the Florida Department of Management Services. Purcell said there are procedures to be followed, including an investigation of the issues, prior to any decision being made.
***Pictured above is former Broward Sheriff's Office chaplain, Rick Braswell.