CRESTVIEW — A group of Crestview police officers, possibly acting under orders from then Chief of Police Tony Taylor, held a May meeting at Speck Pond in Walton County to “dig up dirt” on their commanders.

 

This “unauthorized meeting, held out of Crestview jurisdictional boundaries on federal land without permission,” helped prompt Mayor David Cadle to place Taylor on administrative leave and eventually fire him, according to a report by Cadle released Monday.

“This was a waste of taxpayer funds by having city vehicles at the site. Dispatch was never informed of their location but GPS technology verified the presence of city vehicles at Speck Pond,” the report said.

The meeting at the pond was held on the same day that Cadle confronted Taylor and the Police Department command staff. At this meeting the chief, according to Cadle’s report, charged that his subordinates were attempting to undermine his authority.

The three officers who led the meeting at the pond, identified in the report as Christina Dawson, Shawn Temple and Jay Seals, have been on administrative leave since May 10 and a Police Department internal investigation remains ongoing.

Dawson told others at the May 8 meeting that Taylor had arranged the get together, which she told some less-willing participants was mandatory K-9 officer training, but that Taylor couldn’t be there.

“The chief was unable to attend because there had been a blow-up at the chief's office that afternoon,” the report states, paraphrasing Dawson.

Two of the six officers who went to the Speck Pond meeting contacted their supervisor, Cmdr. Andrew Schneider, afterward. Both said they believed the meeting to be “improper and unethical” and directed more toward gathering dirt against Schneider than actual training.

In a report of his own, Schneider writes that at the command staff meeting — held on the same day as the Speck Pond gathering — Cadle had brought up the topic of a “secret meeting” and that Taylor denied knowledge of the meeting. He expressed concern that if what Dawson told her fellow officers at Speck Pond was true, then Taylor had “blatantly lied” to the mayor and command staff at the meeting he did attend.

Taylor was fired exactly a month later on June 8.

Cadle also details in his report “another situation in which taxpayer funds were abused.”

Dawson, while a trainee/student at the Northwest Florida police academy, received more than $1,400 in compensation from the Crestview Police Department for tuition and fees and another $554 for her student uniforms. Neither expense had been budgeted for or approved by the city, Cadle said in his report.

Also, while attending the academy, Dawson was allowed to work as a dispatcher, a task for which other trainees would be paid as a dispatcher. Dawson, however, received the pay of a fully certified police officer, Cadle reported.

“These accommodations have never been offered another student before or since,” the report said.

Dawson received another perk no other uncertified officer received, Cadle reported. She was allowed to park a patrol car at the apartment complex where she lived and obtain reduced rent for doing so.

“It is evident that an atmosphere of misconduct without consequences as well as favoritism by some officers has been allowed to flourish at the Crestview Police Department, Cadle said in closing his report. “This is reflective of a failure of diligent oversight and responsive leadership which has led me to dismiss Tony Taylor as Chief of Police of the City of Crestview.”