New audio recordings shed new light on the investigation into a controversy at the Fort Myers Police Department.
The tape reveals Chief Derrick Diggs acknowledges one person felt pressured amid allegations then-Major William Newhouse told another officer to hide cost overruns on a new police station from the city council.
The internal affairs investigation began after then-Inspector General Donald Oswald filed a complaint alleging Newhouse told a subordinate during a meeting to hide the rising cost of building new department headquarters at the old News-Press building at 2442 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Both Oswald and Newhouse left their jobs at the department after the controversy was made public.
The meeting between police bigwigs took place because someone was pressuring Lt. Roger Valdivia on the cost of the project, but the investigation doesn’t reveal who was pressuring him.
“He wanted to sit down and fully get direction on what he should do,” Diggs said. “Because he was being told that well, you know, you got to, you got to start making some decisions about what should be cut which was not under his purview. And that’s what the meeting was all about.”
Diggs’ take on what Newhouse said was that it wasn’t Valdivia’s concern how much the project would cost. Instead, he had to focus on what the police department needed.
When Valdivia sat down for his interview and took an oath, the internal affairs investigator asked him if he felt he got a direct order. It took him some time to answer the question.
“I, honestly, I would have to say no. Because, you know, although everyone in that room is definitely, like I said before higher rank than me,” Valdivia said. “I just took it as a general comment, you know, more of like, maybe, you know, this is what I would do type deal. I don’t know, I don’t know if that’s the right way to say it or not.”
Lt. Lesa Breneman conducted the investigations but Diggs made the final call after reviewing them.
He ruled the complaint by Oswald was unfounded, which means not true, but the independent firm charged with reviewing it said Diggs should have found it not sustained, which means there’s not enough evidence to prove the case either way.
Oswald has since sued the city, the police department, Diggs, Newhouse and Breneman.