Thursday, May 10, 2007

Jail director resigns after inquiry

Sun staff writer

Alachua County jail Director Maj. Robert Chapman, facing termination based on the outcome of an internal investigation, resigned on Tuesday, according to the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.

Chapman, 56, was placed on paid leave in late February after allegations surfaced regarding Chapman's purchase of a vehicle that belonged to an inmate's family, as well as other allegations regarding travel reimbursements and preferential treatment of inmates.

An FDLE investigation into the allegations was completed in March, and State Attorney Bill Cervone decided not to pursue criminal charges against Chapman, instead deferring to whatever penalties the Sheriff's Office would place upon the jail director.

An internal investigation by the Sheriff's Office was completed on Monday, and Sheriff Sadie Darnell decided to accept a recommendation to terminate Chapman. Chapman resigned Tuesday.

"He saw the way the investigation was going and was extremely discouraged with the way it was going, and with the way they were not investigating all sides of the allegations," said Chapman's attorney, Gloria Fletcher. "And given that, I think he lost confidence in staying at the office and chose to resign."

Darnell said even though there was not enough information to criminally prosecute Chapman, her office found enough evidence to determine that Chapman had not been complying with agency policies. She said she chose to accept the recommendation of termination by Chief Deputy David Huckstep.

"I find him to be a very personable, very family-oriented person," Darnell said of Chapman. "But his judgment in the workplace, especially at the level he achieved and what that represented, is something I find unable to accept in an employee."

In a 32-page report detailing the investigation on Chapman, who has worked at the Sheriff's Office for more than nine years, investigators interviewed several staff members at the Sheriff's Office who had direct contact with Chapman, as well as the inmates involved in the allegations.

The investigation determined that Chapman did not pay sales tax on a Ford Mustang he purchased in 2004 from a woman who is his neighbor.

The investigation also found, however, that Chapman gave special treatment to the son of the woman Chapman purchased the car from. The son was incarcerated at the Alachua County jail at the time of the vehicle purchase, as well as later, in 2006.

Chapman gave conflicting statements during interviews when it came to the descriptions of when he paid for and how he took possession of the Mustang, in violation of the Sheriff's Office's policy on truthfulness, according to the report.

Chapman was found to have falsified travel vouchers, purposely omitting the fact that he received free meals during a trip to the Florida Sheriff's Association Jail Administrators Workshop in 2006, the report stated. That put Chapman in violation of a Sheriff's Office policy not to accept gifts.

The last allegation that was sustained by the investigation involved an inmate who sent Chapman an autographed photo of her father, who is a famous boxer. In some interviews, staff indicated Chapman told the inmate she might receive "gain time," or time subtracted from her sentence, if she sent Chapman a signed photo of her father, because Chapman's father-in-law is a boxing fan. In an interview with FDLE, however, the inmate denied having been told she would receive gain time in exchange for the photo.

Chapman's attorney said neither she nor Chapman had been able to review the final report, despite having requested a copy of the report from the Sheriff's Office on Tuesday. Fletcher said she could not comment as to the specific findings of the report without seeing a copy, but she said she and her client were disappointed with the way the investigation was handled.

"This entire investigation began with a disgruntled employee," she said. "One has to question it when a disgruntled employee can bring this kind of damage to another person."

Darnell said acting Maj. Tony Canchola, who has been the interim jail director during Chapman's leave, will remain as jail director until further plans are made.

Alice Wallace can be reached at 352-338-3109 or

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