Former inspector general files lawsuit against FMPD over deception about new headquarter costs, retaliation

Published: Updated:
Oswald lawsuit against FMPD

The Fort Myers Police Department is now facing a lawsuit regarding its activity. On Monday, a former inspector general filed that suit against the city, FMPD, the police chief, a former major, and an investigator.

All of this is regarding allegations that a former major tried to deceive city council about the actual cost of new police headquarters. WINK News got an exclusive copy of the lawsuit moments after Donald Oswald’s lawyers filed it in federal court.

Oswald makes damning accusations against his former boss, FMPD Chief Derrick Diggs.

When former inspector general Donald Oswald resigned from the Fort Myers Police Department, he took accusations of corruption and retaliation public. He then called for an independent investigation into the police department. Many thought it stopped there, but that is not the case.

David Seide is Oswald’s attorney. Early Monday morning, Seide filed a complaint in federal court. “This lawsuit says they smeared the inspector general in a variety of ways,” Seide said.

The suit includes Chief Derrick Diggs, former Major William Newhouse, Internal Affairs Investigator Lesa Breneman, FMPD, and the City of Fort Myers. “We’ve got we can take this to a jury and 15, you know, in 15 minutes, and inspector general will testify, and we’re confident a judge and jury will find the defendants guilty,” said Seide.

The suit lays out what WINK News reporter Sydney Persing has been reporting. Oswald accused Newhouse of making an unethical order to a lieutenant. Newhouse reportedly told that lieutenant not to say anything to Fort Myers City Council about the potential cost overruns for the new police headquarters. Oswald claims that, as a result, Chief Diggs “commenced a campaign of discrimination and retaliation against Oswald so severe that he was compelled to resign.”

But, this lawsuit also suggests something new, a motive. Chief Diggs wanted the city to renew his contract. So losing the police station project “could have hurt his reputation and threatened the renewed contract he wanted.”

Then, Oswald and his lawyers make an explosive claim. “It implied that he’s a racist, it implied that he was a liar. Those are smears that the Inspector General will rebut in court under oath,” said Seide.

Defendant William Newhouse’s attorney, Robert Burdant, predicted that this lawsuit would never make it to court. “I don’t; I just don’t see it. I think federal judges are not going to tolerate this. I think it’s an abuse, actually,” Burdant said.

But, if the case does get to a jury, Burdant believes they wouldn’t buy the inspector general’s argument. “When Newhouse allegedly made this statement, nobody jumped up. And if this made him sick to his stomach, like he keeps saying, why didn’t he jump up at that time and say, ‘Wait a minute, what are you doing? This is wrong.’ Nobody did anything. Nobody said anything. And he didn’t say anything for 14 days,” said Burdant.

Earlier, Chief Diggs expressed that he was unaware of the lawsuit. But, Diggs decided to address the media, and WINK News investigative reporter Peter Fleischer was there.

Diggs said he felt compelled to speak on Monday due to what he referred to as “misinterpretations” surrounding the Oswald-Newhouse controversy.

Chief Diggs says that the Jensen Hughes review misinterprets FMPD policy, state law and the officers’ bill of rights. Diggs also defended his work and the work of the police department.

According to Diggs, he wanted an outside agency to conduct the investigation so that he wouldn’t be left to answer questions about what he referred to as “fairness” or “nonsense.”

So, Diggs decided to hold a press conference before he knew about the lawsuit. Why did he suddenly feel so compelled to speak?

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.