By ELGIN JONES
FORT LAUDERDALE – A Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) sergeant who is the target of a criminal investigation after being accused of falsifying an Internal Affairs report, had admitted that she included unsubstantiated information at the direction of superiors.
Sgt. Mary Guess made the admissions while being cross-examined in the arbitration hearing of a lieutenant who was fired as a result of what she wrote.
In her report, Guess described Lt. James Murray, who was under investigation for computer-related issues, as being “angry” and “disrespectful to me,” among other things.
The report was submitted to a disciplinary standards committee without Murray being interviewed or given an opportunity to respond to the findings. According to sources, members of the committee were never informed that it included allegedly false information.
“Do you think it’s right to put in comments regarding Jim Murray’s attitude toward you in the investigations?” Murray’s attorney Michael Braverman asked Guess, according to the transcript of the hearing.
“I was directed to put those comments in there by my Lieutenant.” Guess responded during her testimony. Upon further questioning, she identified that supervisor as “Lt. [Greg] Gordon” and said she probably would not have included that information if she had not been directed to do so.
Gordon reviewed and signed off on her report, but did not respond to interview requests or questions about Guess’ testimony or the report he approved. BSO director of media relations Jim Leljedal said, “It would not be appropriate for Lt. Gordon to do an interview.”
Guess also admitted including unsubstantiated rumors in the report even though a witness informed her they were not true.
“Later that day, Lieutenant [Peter] Sudler called Lieutenant Gordon and advised that Lieutenant Murray reported to him, after I had left, that he was ‘concerned about files’ he had on his computer,” Guess wrote in her report.
According to transcripts of Guess’ testimony during the hearing, even though Sudler informed Guess that Murray made no such statements and the conversation with Gordon never took place, that information was not included in her report. When pressed by Murray’s attorney, Braverman, she acknowledged the account was only rumor.
“Don’t you specifically cite this conversation between Sudler and Gordon?” Braverman asked Guess.
“Yes, I do,” Guess answered.
“And in nowhere [sic] else on your report do you point out to the Standards Committee that Sudler says that never happened?” Braverman asked.
“No,” guess responded.
During her testimony Guess claimed she heard the information from several of her superiors.
“Well, I was told that. I was told that by Lieutenant Gordon. I was told that by Lieutenant [David] Benjamin, who was running our office, the same thing,” she testified.
BSO has not responded to questions about Guess’ claims made under oath. Michael E. Dutko, the attorney representing Benjamin, said his client was “surprised” and “absolutely denies that he told Mary Guess to lie or fabricate anything in the Professional Compliance Report regarding Jim Murray.”
Guess compiled her 15-page report in July 2009 following her investigation of Murray, who at the time headed BSO’s Strategic Investigations Division. That division conducts confidential investigations with other law enforcement agencies and other highly secretive operations. It had come under scrutiny for unknown reasons and was targeted for several BSO Internal Affairs investigations and financial audits. Guess testified that she believed Sheriff Al Lamberti was the “complainant” who initiated those investigations.
Murray was reassigned to the Deerfield Beach district during the course of the investigations. According to Guess’ report, on April 14, 2009, she and Sgt. Maurice Mathis went there to confiscate Murray’s laptop computer. They met with his supervisor, Sudler, who summoned Murray to his office. Murray was informed that he was under investigation. Words were reportedly exchanged between Guess and Murray.
Among other things, her report indicates Murray visited “adult” Web sites and downloaded “sexually explicit” photographs. During cross-examination at the arbitration hearing, Guess acknowledged Murray did not visit any pornographic Web sites. Some of the photographs she included as examples of his activities were actually taken at BSO picnics.
Murray was suspended in October 2009 for harassment and violating BSO computer policies. He was fired in January 2010 and has been out of work since then. His case remains pending before an independent arbitrator.
Guess, 56, is now the target of a Broward State Attorney’s criminal investigation over the report.
She has been employed by the sheriff’s office for nearly 30 years, the last 14 as an investigator in the Internal Affairs Division where she continues to investigate cases. She has not been reassigned or placed on leave while under investigation.
*Picture above is Broward Sheriff's Office Sergeant Mary Guess