Fort Lauderdale police have closed their investigation into a workplace altercation between two managers in the city’s building department.
“Following a review, it is believed that this matter does not meet the criteria for a criminal violation of the law and as (sic) result will be considered closed pending any additional information,” Officer Rod McGowan wrote in his Sept. 10 police report.
The confrontation took place June 28 between the two supervisors and allegedly involved a gun and deaths threats. City officials said they learned of it on Sept. 7 through an anonymous letter sent to city commissioners purportedly from a building department employee who claimed to have witnessed the incident.
“A manager from the Building Department Alex Hernandez recently threatened to kill Code Manager Michael Maloney in a fit of rage over suspicions that his wife Assistant Code Manager Deborah Hernandez was having an affair with her boss Mr. Maloney,” the two-page letter alleged.
The undated letter also stated that several other employees in the building department witnessed the confrontation and that Hernandez had to be restrained by a relative who also works in the building.
Three days after receiving the complaint and interviewing workers, police investigators determined the confrontation did take place but they could not substantiate claims of a death threat or that a gun was involved.
“The incident, which reportedly occurred on June 28, 2010, in and near the office of Mr. Maloney was described as a matter that lasted only several minutes where Mr. Hernandez became loud and yelled a profanity “you piece of [expletive]” as he left the office,” McGowan wrote in his report.
Interim City Manager Allyson Love said even though there is was no evidence a crime had been committed, further review of the matter is underway.
“Nonetheless, I am also reviewing the circumstances of the incident that occurred on June 28 and assessing the department's response,” Love explained in an email sent to the South Florida Times. “Until I have had the opportunity to fully understand the facts pertinent to the "subject," it would be inappropriate for me to comment.”
Questions remain whether any non-criminal personnel rules and workplace policies might have been violated. Also, even though supervisors were aware of the June 28 confrontation, it is not clear why they never notified the labor relations department or alerted the Office of Professional Standards, as city protocol requires.
The incident took place at the city’s One Stop Shop, 700 NW 19th Ave., just north of Sistrunk Boulevard in northwest Fort Lauderdale. The facility houses the code enforcement, building permitting and inspections units, among other divisions. Maloney is a manager in the code enforcement division. Hernandez is a chief mechanical inspector in the building services division. His wife is an assistant manager in the code enforcement division and reports directly to Maloney.
The anonymous letter also alleged that the building department’s director Valerie Bohlander stopped employees and other supervisors from reporting the incident. Bohlander did not respond to efforts to contact her about that allegation. She did send an e-mail to employees about the incident this week.
“As I am sure you all are aware, a recent anonymous letter alleged a threat of violence and bodily harm was exhibited in the workplace a few months back.
Please be assured that this incident was thoroughly investigated by the Police Department and it has been determined that no threats to cause harm were heard nor was a weapon seen or mentioned,” states Bohlander’s e-mail sent Sept. 14 to employees.
“As a result of this investigation, which included interviews with known witnesses, the anonymous claims were determined to be untrue and the case has been closed,” Bohlander wrote.
“Be assured that violent behavior exhibited by anyone in the workplace should be reported immediately to your supervisor. These reports will be taken seriously with the appropriate action being taken immediately,” she added.
Bohlander’s e-mail does not explain why she did not report the incident at the time it took place several months ago.
Elgin Jones may be contacted at EJones@SFLTimes.com.
Pictured Above: Valerie Bohlander