Fort Myers allocates taxpayer money to bankroll police lawsuits

Outside of the City of Fort Myers Police Department. Photo via WINK News.
Outside of the City of Fort Myers Police Department. Photo via WINK News.

The City of Fort Myers is adding to its list of legal defense funds by agreeing to pay a portion of the costs to defend eight police officers named in a federal lawsuit.

“It’s in our best interest financially to make sure we don’t lose this lawsuit,” said Fred Burson, who is on the city council.

But not everyone is on board.

“I know I cannot support his motion because everybody has to be held accountable when they do things wrong,” said Terolyn Watson, a city council member.

Two people claim they were wrongfully arrested and sentenced because of a compromised informant: a woman who performed a sex act during an undercover drug buy. WINK News asked defense attorney Sawyer Smith, who is not part of the lawsuit, to weigh in.

“The city is responsible for not only defending itself but also for providing legal counsel for their employees or former employees,” Smith said.

It is making taxpayers also responsible for more costs, in this case at least $85,000 this year, according to city attorney Grant Alley.

“I cannot give you an amount for what it will cost for this case,” Alley said. “Litigation is expensive.”

Among those who will be defended is a detective who was fired and Captain Jay Rodriguez, who is under investigation for sexual misconduct.

Alley claims half of the costs for the officers will be paid by the Police Union. Fort Myers is part of the lawsuit, too, so the city has to pay that as well.

“We’ve seen the city a lot lately spending money to defend itself,” Smith said. “I would hope that sooner than later the city will clean itself up so we can spend more of our taxpayer money on services as opposed to lawsuits.”

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