FORT LAUDERDALE – A former Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) lieutenant may have been targeted and fired as a result of his refusal to participate in a secret investigation of a union official, according to transcripts of his arbitration hearing.
That’s the defense raised by Michael Braverman, the attorney representing former BSO Lt. James Murray in the hearing held over his 2009 termination. BSO Internal Affairs Sgt. Mary Guess, who conducted the investigation of Murray and filed the report on him, is now the target of a Broward State Attorney’s Office criminal investigation over allegations that her report contained false information.
“Wasn’t there an issue involving a gentleman named Jeff Poole when there was an investigation that was being launched by the BSO where Jim Murray, the SID [Strategic Investigations Division] Unit was [sic] approached Jim Murray and Kevin Butler, by yourself and another investigator from Internal Affairs to assign undercover assets to actually surveil Jeff Poole, and Jim Murray said he would not do that,” PBA attorney Michael Braverman asked during his cross examination of Guess.
Jeff Poole is a vice detective and Police Benevolent Association (PBA) union representative who at the time worked in the Strategic Investigations Division (SID) under Murray’s supervision. SID conducts undercover operations involving money-laundering and drug-trafficking and has wire-tapping, satellite tracking, and other high-tech capabilities.
“I assisted the other investigator in that,” Guess responded to Braverman, while denying she had any animosity toward Murray. “I was part of a group of sergeants from IA [internal affairs] that worked that investigation, and that investigation concluded into nothing. I think it was unfounded if it was a case, or it remained a PII [preliminary investigative inquiry] ’cause there was no evidence that Detective Poole did anything wrong.”
Murray’s attorney questioned whether Murray may have been targeted and accused of misusing BSO computers and crime databases, which led to his suspension and firing, after he and Guess argued over her alleged request for surveillance of Poole.
Murray’s case remains in the hands of the arbitrator, who has yet to issue a ruling. His attorney, Braverman did not return calls seeking comment.
BSO has not responded to a public records request from South Florida Times for documents related to the investigations. But Guess testified that, “I know there was a surveillance ‘cause I was part of it. Now that I think about it, I can only remember a handful.”
Poole declined comment when contacted. Other union officials said they were unaware of the investigations into Poole. They expressed concern and raised the possibility of taking legal action against BSO.
“She was under oath and you expect any law enforcement officer to be truthful in any event, so I believe her testimony,” said Jeff Marano, senior vice president of the Broward County chapter of the PBA. “If there were these investigations of Poole, it would have been done in violation of the collective bargaining agreement and the police officers Bill of Rights, which is state law.”
Florida statutes require law enforcement officers to be informed of the any investigations of them by their departments, including the names of the complainants, among other things.
“Whoever authorized those operations abused their power and authority as a law enforcement officer, which is serious.” Marano said. “If we get proof, we have to protect our union and our reps. If it was done over his union activity, that’s another violation of state law.”
BSO did not respond questions about the investigations of Poole.
The state attorney’s investigation of Guess is ongoing and she remains on the job performing her regular duties. BSO has not said why she has not been reassigned.
Robert M. Jarvis, a legal scholar, law professor and BSO historian, co-authored Out of the Muck: A History of the Broward Sheriff's Office, described it as “highly unusual.”
“Standard operating procedure, especially in this case where she claims she was told to do things by her bosses, is for her to be placed on leave,” said Jarvis, a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center.
BSO is one of the largest law enforcement agencies to receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Sylvester Daughtry Jr., the organization’s executive director, said BSO’s decision not to reassign Guess will be reviewed during the next accreditation process.
*Pictured above is BSO Internal Affairs Sgt. Mary Guess