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Former sheriff files ethics complaint against current office holder

By Staff | Aug 22, 2019

A former Lee County Sheriff filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics Monday, citing alleged conduct by the current Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno.

Rodney Shoap, Lee County sheriff from 2001-2004, and a member of LCSO for 26 years, is questioning the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s handling of a complaint made by Diana Williams, who filed it after a relationship with then-undersheriff Marceno ended last year.

FDLE found no cause to initiate a criminal investigation.

That investigation did not address potential ethical violations, hence his decision to file, Shoap said.

“As I read the (FDLE) investigation I became concerned not by what the Office of Executive Investigations (OEI) investigators did, but by what they did not do,” Shoap wrote in the letter to the state Commission on Ethics.

Shoap now lives in Tennessee and is endorsing Jim Leavens for sheriff in the 2020 election, but said he “still feels connected to the agency and would help anyone there at the drop of a dime.”

Shoap said this issue made its way across his desk after a friend at the LCSO sent him the FDLE investigative report.

The report concluded with, “it is determined the information provided did not constitute a criminal predicate that would warrant a criminal investigation by FDLE at this time.”

Shoap’s issue is with what he calls Marceno “pursuing” a person who, at the time, was the complainant in an active criminal investigation.

“It’s wrong,” Shoap said. “This is an ethical issue — to pursue someone romantically that is a reporting victim of a crime. To put a victim of crime in a romantic situation involving a police vehicle as well, is unethical.”

Marceno, who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to fill the unexpired term of office for former sheriff Mike Scott, who retired, said the complaint is politically motivated.

“Rod Shoap has allied himself with my opponent,” Marceno said in a statement. “These accusations are politically motivated and have been previously proven false. I am disappointed that my opponent continues to stoop to this level. As always, my primary focus is the safety and security of the residents of Lee County.”

Shoap said Leavens is not a party to the complaint nor was Leavens informed it was to be filed.

Williams had gone to LCSO’s Economic Crimes Unit, which investigated her complaint against an attorney who she alleged fraudulently obtained money that was supposed to have been awarded to her following a civil case.

Shoap, who wrote his complaint based on statements in the FDLE report, said that Marceno “interjected himself into the investigation for what appears to be an attempt to establish a personal relationship with Ms. Williams.”

According to the FDLE investigative report, Williams and Marceno had a consensual relationship from July 2018 to September 2018.

The relationship, which reportedly ended with an unplanned pregnancy, did not end amicably, with accusations made and denied.

Shoap said, “what was not considered by FDLE were secondary issues relating to other actions committed by Sheriff Marceno that require a comparison of his official conduct to the Law Enforcement Ethical Standards of Conduct as established and enforced by Florida Department of Law Enforcement and CJSTC (Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission).”

Shoap continued to say that the purpose of the establishment of these standards is to define “conduct unbecoming of a police officer.”

FDLE policy states that, “Law enforcement effectiveness depends upon community respect and confidence. Conduct which detracts from this respect and confidence is detrimental to the public interest and should be prohibited. The policy of this Department is to investigate circumstances suggesting an officer has engaged in unbecoming conduct, and impose disciplinary action when appropriate.”

FDLE did not respond to request for comment by press time.

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