PBA Responds to City of High Springs Termination of Police Chief Steve Holley:
This morning, in an email to the attorneys representing High Springs Police Chief Steve Holley, the City of High Springs terminated Chief Holley’s employment alleging that he had been absent without authorization from his duties with the High Springs Police Department. The City Manager’s claims are neither factual, honest, legal nor ethical.
On January 27, 2014, High Springs City Manager Ed Booth arranged for a meeting with Chief Holley. During this meeting, Mr. Booth advised Chief Holley that three of the sitting High Springs City Commissioners had expressed to him a desire to terminate his duties as the Chief of Police. At that time, Mr. Booth provided Chief Holley with a document which outlined an ultimatum in which Chief Holley would be allowed to choose between forced retirement and forced demotion to the rank of Sergeant. Additionally, Mr. Booth advised that Chief Holley was being placed on administrative leave with pay until February 17, 2014 so that he may ponder his decision. The basis of Mr. Booth’s actions against Chief Holley was neither substantiated with citizen complaints, allegations of misconduct nor poor performance appraisals. In the same document, Mr. Booth lauded Chief Holley’s law enforcement experience, job knowledge and performance which were the impetus of his offer to remain at the High Springs Police Department as a Sergeant. Instead, Mr. Booth merely advised Chief Holley that “there are three commissioners that want you gone”. Being that Chief Holley’s direct supervisor is Mr. Booth, he obeyed the order he was given and retained the legal assistance provided by the Florida Police Benevolent Association.
During the course of Chief Holley’s ordered administrative leave, Mr. Booth, in several public forums, stated that Chief Holley was unable to perform his duties as Police Chief for “personal reasons”, proposing that Chief Holley had requested leave of his own accord and claiming that Chief Holley was unfit to continue his employ as the High Springs Police Chief. These blatantly disparaging and slanderous claims are wholly fabricated by Mr. Booth in an effort to hide official misconduct on his part. At no time did Chief Holley request any time off from his position as asserted by Mr. Booth. Chief Holley has always been, and to this day remains, ready to serve the citizens of High Springs as their Chief of Police.
At no time since being placed on Administrative Leave by City Manager Ed Booth have Chief Holley, his attorneys or the Florida PBA received any correspondence from the City of High Springs advising that he had been demoted to the rank of Sergeant. It wasn’t until after close of normal business hours on Friday, March 7, 2014, that High Springs City Attorney Scott Walker sent an email to Chief Holley’s attorneys informing them that he was to return to work at the High Springs Police Department. On the morning of Monday, March 10, 2014, Chief Holley’s attorneys contacted Mr. Walker eager to return Chief Holley to his position as Chief of Police. At that time, Mr. Walker informed Chief Holley’s attorneys that his return to the High Springs Police Department would be in the capacity of a Sergeant. That action is in violation of the City of High Springs Personnel Manual as well as the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights. At no time was Chief Holley ordered to return to work by City Manager Ed Booth, the only representative of the City of High Springs with the authority to do so. This is why the email received this morning terminating Chief Holley’s employment for being “AWOL” or absent without leave is so disturbing. Not only is the basis of his termination fabricated, misleading and blatantly untrue, but any effort by the City of High Springs to terminate his employment was completely devoid of even an attempt at affording the due process rights guaranteed to Chief Holley under Florida Law.
Furthermore, the City of High Springs’ actions regarding Chief Holley’s employment status, in particular those actions of City Manager Ed Booth and City Attorney Scott Walker, have violated the provisions of the City Personnel Manual, the City Charter, and state and federal statutes.
Chief Holley loves his job, loves the citizens of High Springs, and has been willing and able to serve as Police Chief every day since January 27, 2014 when he was ordered by Mr. Booth to be placed administrative leave. It is a sad day when those sworn to protect the rights of the citizens provided by the constitution and laws of the State of Florida are denied the ability to exercise their own. The Florida Police Benevolent Association will continue to represent Chief Holley against the slanderous and illegal practices being undertaken by the City of High Springs at the hands of its City Manager and City Attorney.
Brandon C. Kutner, President
Florida Police Benevolent Association, Inc.
300 E Brevard St
Tallahassee, FL 32301
(850) 222-3329 or (352) 317-8263