The memo, which was sent Aug. 15 to Sgt. Dave Morgenstern and was intended to be private, said Morgenstern lacked the skills needed to perform as the Sanford Police Department’s PIO. Furthermore he claimed a different PIO might have been able to assist former chief Bill Lee Jr. during national media attention to the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case.
“My initial assessment, which only grew in strength, was that SPD was sorely lacking in the demonstrated skillset within the PIO function,” wrote Myers. “… I believe a more skilled PIO may well have helped the former chief craft his message more effectively.”
Morgenstern is now fighting back claiming the chief may have violated public record laws by delivering the news in a form of a letter.
In a complaint filed Tuesday with City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr., Morgenstern wrote he was shocked by the letter’s contents and surprised an experienced chief would not be aware of Florida Law.
“It is beyond me that an experienced Chief of Police would direct ‘You are to treat this memo as private and confidential; you have the only printed copy and are directed to keep this for your eyes only,” said Morgenstern. “Such a directive puts all parties in potential conflict with Florida Statutes.”
In his complaint Morgenstern outlines a series of events that led to his removal from the PIO position. According to the document Morgenstern requested to become part of the Florida Law Enforcement Public Information Officers Association in May and later requested for off-duty work to instruct media classes in July.
In the complaint Morgenstern wrote both requests were denied and later – when he asked for the reason – Myers informed him he would be removed from the PIO position and replaced with a “professional.”
“When I inquired as to my future status Interim Chief Myers rather quickly responded ‘you will be reassigned,’” wrote Morgenstern. Subsequently Morgenstern was reassigned to road patrol.
Shortly after that, Myers announced to commissioners the police department would be hiring a PIO with a journalism background. Commissioners approved the new position Aug. 31.
In his letter Morgenstern said, “Publicly talking about me stating the PIO move was ‘long overdue’ is highly inappropriate…”
Morgenstern also said he was embarrassed by the release of the memo and felt a loss of his professional reputation.
“These unnecessary sequences of actions have placed the City, the Police Department, and me in the public spotlight yet again,” wrote Morgenstern. “Interim Chief Myers wrote the degrading letter, directed me to not share it with anybody, never affording me the opportunity to address questions the letter brings up.”
Bonaparte, who received the complaint Tuesday, said he has reviewed Morgenstern’s complaint.
“I have received it and will be looking into it,” he said.