Saturday, February 03, 2007
A POLICEMAN FIRED AFTER ADOPTION MESS - FLORIDA
A lieutenant with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office has been fired for filing misleading court documents in a child adoption case.Stephen Ford also was found to have violated agency regulations pertaining to the use of the police computer system and for insubordination.Ford, an officer with more than 24 years on the job, was terminated. An office memorandum read, in part:“Effective January 29, 2007 your employment as a north district lieutenant is withdrawn.” He plans to contest the firing.Ford and his wife were among the main witnesses in an internal investigation about the conduct of sheriff’s deputies at a controversial May 30 retirement party.That party, at Beef O’Brady’s in North Fort Myers, resulted in interviews with more than 40 people after allegations of misconduct that included two female deputies kissing each other and rubbing against a superior officer.Lee sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Hollan and Det. Jessica Schipansky resigned as a result of the inquiry.At issue in Stephen Ford’s firing are court documents he and his wife, Kathleen Ford, filed to allow her husband to adopt her child from another relationship. Those documents, in part, concern Stephen Ford’s certification that he had lived with the child since she was 2 years old. He conceded that was not true but said it was a typographical error that was corrected before the court made a decision in the case.His wife takes the blame for the mistake, saying she had him quickly sign the document on a lunch break before the corrections were made.The sheriff’s office contends several other improprieties were found, including misuse of the police computer system to check on the little girl’s father and use of the police network for personal reasons.Kathleen Ford said her husband has been unfairly targeted because of issues he raised about conduct within the sheriff’s office. Those included allegations of inappropriate conduct by the chief deputy, Charles Ferrante, at the retirement party. Sheriff Mike Scott brushed those allegations aside. “This was the result of a citizen complaint,” he said. “The only question here was ‘Have you been truthful?’” Stephen Ford had been the subject of other administrative action, Scott said. “He had been demoted once before, but he was a great cop, and I gave him another chance,” Scott said.Personnel records show Stephen Ford was given a disciplinary demotion from lieutenant to sergeant on Dec. 10, 1998. The charges were conduct unbecoming an officer, neglect of duty and lying to an instructor, records reflect.The complaint that initiated the firing came from Marcus Jansen, a Cape Coral resident who is fighting Stephen Ford’s effort to adopt his daughter.Jansen said the Fords have tried to mislead the court, claiming he could not be located, to try to win an uncontested adoption.“They knew how to find me,” he said. “I’ve always let the court know where I was.”Kathleen Ford said she has been the victim of systematic harassment by Jansen and has a list of legal actions she has initiated. She accused him of being in the country illegally and engaging in a pattern of illegal conduct while here.Jansen, who’s from the Dutch Antilles, disputes that. He confirms he is in the country on a 90-day visa that expired in 2002, but he says he can’t leave until a misdemeanor complaint Kathleen Ford filed in Charlotte County is settled. He was given a Social Security number on a state-issued document when he applied for a real estate license, he said, and he acknowledged the number is not his.“I didn’t know the system,” he said. “They listed it on my paperwork from the state, but I couldn’t use it anyway because I don’t have a work visa for the United States,” he said.“They even called immigration on me,” he said. “The agent looked at my paperwork and agreed I’m in a Catch-22. My passport is being held with the Charlotte County clerk (of courts).”Kathleen Ford had gone to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to complain about a cover up in the matter, but the FDLE found no basis for criminal charges, spokesman Larry Long said.