Mayor Gary Snodgrass informed St Augustine Beach City Commissioners at their regular meeting this evening that early this afternoon he had received and accepted Chief of Police Richard Hedges’ letter of resignation — effective immediately.
Hedges, who is represented by local attorney Patrick Canan, did not attend the meeting tonight; it was attended by interim Chief of Police; St Johns County Sheriff’s South Region Chief Deputy, David Messenger.
“I thanked former Chief Hedges for his nine years of service to the community and we wish him well in his future endeavors,” the mayor said.
Snodgrass reported that he also met with Sheriff David Shoar today to determine if continuing the mutual aid Interlocal agreement that has Messenger assigned to the City was feasible until such time as a permanent Chief of Police can be identified.
He announced to the other commissioners that he had Shoar’s support and asked that they join him in resolving to maintain the relationship with Interim Chief Messenger. The members agreed unanimously.
The mayor also asked the members to agree to abandon any further efforts to investigate whether former Chief Hedges has managed the small department in accordance with city policies and procedures compatible with accepted best practices in law enforcement.
Commissioner Undine Pawlowski had objections and voiced concerns that the commission would be left in the dark; as to exactly what had, and what had not, been carried out under Hedges command at the Police Department. Pawlowski agreed to go along with the remainder of the commission with the understanding that Chief Messenger will continue to replace outdated policies as they are discovered and make further administrative changes necessary to maintain full compliance with city code and Florida laws — reporting back regularly on his progress.
Although the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has not completed its investigation of any criminal misconduct at the Police Department by the Chief, the Assistant Chief or patrol officers, Mayor Snodgrass said that those investigations should be completed, “in the near future”.
The mayor called for a special commission meeting to discuss guidelines and search criteria to select a new Chief of Police. That meeting has been set for Monday, June 18 at 7:00 p.m.
There was brief discussion of a possible contract with the Sheriff’s Office, long term, in essence replacing the Police Department; however, there remain some legal questions because of language in the city charter specifically calling for a Chief of Police.
City Attorney Doug Burnett is investigating two letters of opinion from the Florida Attorney General that, if relevant, might allow the city to simply contract for those services. Burnett says that after he inspects the charters for the two other Florida cities to determine if their charter language is the same as the City of St Augustine Beach, he will be prepared to render his own opinion — hopefully within the next two weeks.
To:St Augustine Beach Commission
I have very much enjoyed my nine years as Chief of Police of St Augustine Beach.
I love this city and am proud of the Department and the progress we have made over these many years. It has been an honor to serve you and this community.
I have had a wonderful and fulfilling career. I have been in law enforcement for thirty-eight years and was contemplating retiring next year. However, I have decided to retire now to allow our town to move forward and focus on the future.
Effective immediately, I am retiring from the St. Augustine Beach Police Department.
I plan on remaining in the community and if requested, I will gladly assist in the transition phase. Please contact me if you have any questions.