WPB police captain suspended over relationship with officer - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

WPB police captain suspended over relationship with officer

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - Capt. Randy Maale, one of the top six officials in the city Police Department, has been suspended for a week after an internal investigation found that he had a personal relationship with a female officer who served under his command.

The relationship "contributed to an atmosphere of distrust, fear and confusion especially for the supervisors" of Maale's unit, the investigation report said.

Maale, who has been with the department for 22 years, is in charge of the Entertainment District Unit, which includes Clematis Street and the waterfront. He regularly presents updates to the city commission and his advice helps shape downtown policy.

The internal investigation found that Maale, 42, was involved with Officer Cathy Cognetti, 25, who served on the unit.

Former Police Chief Delsa Bush and former Assistant Chief Dennis Crispo warned both Cognetti and Maale that "a personal relationship between a captain and a subordinate officer within the same chain of command could be problematic".

But Maale, who is married, continued to call and text Cognetti for hours at a time while Cognetti was on duty and occasionally met with her for personal reasons while she was on duty, the report said.

The investigation found that the timings of some of the phone calls coincided with controversial briefings and comments made with the unit. Sergeants in between Maale and Cognetti in the chain of command said Maale began intervening in matters involving Cognetti, including a case when a sergeant would not allow Cognetti to attend college night courses, which require approval from a supervisor.

"(The sergeant) felt the captain's intervention was unnecessary and indicated Officer Cognetti had gone 'over their heads' with an issue they were responsible for handling," the report said.

From there, tensions grew within the unit, the report said. Two officers said they felt Cognetti and another officer close to her "got away with doing whatever they wanted and Sergeant Craig Davis could not do anything about it because of Officer Cognetti's relationship with Captain Maale."

"The (Entertainment District) was not functioning as a team," according to the report. It went on to say that "the personal relationship between Captain Maale and Officer Cognetti negatively impacted Captain Maale's ability to perform his job."

Cognetti openly discussed the relationship with other officers despite Maale being married, according to the report. Cognetti told investigators that she was just "being one of the guys."

On Monday, City Administrator Ed Mitchell suspended Maale for a week without pay after meeting with both Maale and an attorney.

"As a rank of captain, he's in that position because I should trust his decision-making and he did not use good judgment," Mitchell said. "It's common sense."

Maale had just been promoted to captain and come off probationary status when the problems arose. Mitchell ordered Maale's probationary status to restart. Maale's suspension won't begin until city officials coordinate it.

Maale did not return calls for comment. Cognetti could not be reached. Her conduct was not within this scope of the investigation.

"It's (upsetting)," said acting police co-chief Mary Santos-Olsen, "because we are held at a higher standard because we're ranking officers".

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