Miami-Dade schools investigators clear former top cop of harassment

Scandalous sexual harassment allegations that led to the downfall of Miami-Dade schools’ former police chief were fabricated as part of a railroad campaign by angry officers, according to the former top cop.

Investigative reports released to The Miami Herald show the school district cleared former chief Charles Hurley of accusations he systematically harassed and stalked two female subordinates. Hurley was instead found to have acted unprofessionally.

The reports also reveal Hurley’s defense: that his accusers were motivated by money and were part of a group of “malcontents” who turned on him and even vandalized his home because of his efforts to right a “dysfunctional” department.

“My career has been permanently damaged. My name has been slandered and defamed,” he told investigators. “I have had my life’s work ripped away from me.”

Hurley, 43, was promoted to chief in 2008. Arrests dropped dramatically, and he said he corrected fiscal mismanagement, among other achievements. But he spent the last year under a cloud.

During that time, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement received complaints he’d abused the Baker Act, which allows involuntary commitment for mental evaluations — the agency declined to investigate — and a police commander and school resource officer alleged he’d been harassing them for years.

Hurley resigned in February rather than accept a demotion to a position outside the police department.

The school district is expected to name a permanent chief this month. Spokesman John Schuster declined to comment for this article, citing ongoing sexual harassment litigation in which Hurley and the district are co-defendants.

Throughout the ordeal, Hurley has remained silent except to deny all allegations through his attorney, Ben Esco. “He is taking the high road through all of this,” Esco said.

Hurley’s sworn statements, however, show he felt he was targeted by officers with poor credibility and motives and then unfairly removed from office, allowing his critics to push unfettered for his ouster. He said he bumped heads with subordinates over sloppy police work, their attire, overtime abuse and concerns that his investigations unit leaked confidential Trayvon Martin documents to the media.

“There has been a decline of trust and an erosion of confidence in Chief Hurley,” one investigator wrote in his report. “The motive for this decline and erosion varies, depending on who you speak with.”

Tensions came to a head a year ago after Cmdr. Deanna Fox-Williams and School Resource Officer Yewande Gibson alleged he’d been making unwanted advances for years. Neither officer would agree to be interviewed for this report. Their attorney, Willie Gary, did not respond to interview requests.

The women allege Hurley was verbally abusive, transferred them to new offices and launched internal affairs investigations against them when they rebuffed his advances. Gibson said the harassment went beyond the workplace. She said Hurley tried to seduce her in his home, twice sent a 6-foot, 350-pound officer to peep in her windows at night and had officers follow her in different cars.

Hurley called the allegations “a raunchy and crude symposium of lies to trump up a high-profile case.” He said Gibson and others who’d been disciplined or felt wronged by his administration were recruited by Fox-Williams.

He also provided several Fox-Williams emails from 2010, years after the alleged harassment began, where she called him “sweetie” and “friend” and signed off with “LY,” or “love you.”

“There is nothing that would suggest she is uncomfortable with him,” an investigator wrote.

Investigators interviewed a number of officers and employees, none of whom directly witnessed the officers being sexually harassed. Some colleagues testified that Fox-Williams had openly defied Hurley or that Gibson was a poor cop. Still, some officers said Hurley had fostered an atmosphere of fear and hostility, and others said he joked that his desk “had seen a lot off ass.” One secretary alleged that he’d once tried to kiss her.

Ultimately, investigators found only that Hurley had behaved unprofessionally in the workplace, evidenced by testimony of crude jokes, bragging about alcohol consumption and keeping a pet fighting fish named “Dick” in his office. Hurley disputed those findings as well.

In his resignation letter, he cited political pressure and discord.

“There is a genuine sense of emptiness and sadness in my resignation,” he said. “I loved my work, and I will miss it and many of the people I worked with.”