A top ranking member of the Dothan Police Department could be punished for a letter he wrote to a former chief who recently lost his bid to become a sheriff in Florida.
Lt. Duane Herring is believed to have written the letter to John Powell who was defeated in his attempt to become the Republican nominee for sheriff of Escambia County. He lost to incumbent David Morgan just weeks after Powell was arrested for accepting illegal multiple cash contributions exceeding $50.
Herring attended a short meeting Monday morning with his attorney, Pat Jones, current chief Greg Benton, and Donnie Smith, a member of the department's internal affairs division. The meeting, held in the city's personnel office, was not open to the public or media.
Parties involved in the meeting refused to discuss the matter afterwards. "We have no comment at this time," said Jones. Benton said he had nothing to say because it is a personnel matter which he routinely does not discuss publicly
A person familiar with the letter, who asked not to be identified, said it expresses delight that Powell, who served in Dothan from 2005-2009, lost the Florida race. It is also believed to express hope that Powell will go to prison for his arrest. A conviction on the misdemeanor charge could, at most, carry a short jail term though that seems unlikely.
It is believed that City Manager Mike West, who hired Powell, received the initial complaint from the former chief. He then turned the matter over the Benton, a chain of command that is normal city policy regarding such matters.
This is the latest in a long running feud between Herring and Powell which stems back to at least 2006 when an unrecognized police union of which Herring was a member called for a criminal probe of Powell. Among the allegations made by the group was illegal ticket fixing. Then attorney general Troy King decided an investigation was not warranted.
Herring, who went public in an interview with WDHN in 2006, was almost immediately transferred to a newly-created position where he tracked statistics for the department in a small room on the lower level of the department known as the "broom closet." The room has since become a broom closet again.
Benton should decide this week what, if any, disciplinary measures will be taken against Herring.
Attempts to contact Powell for comment were unsuccessful.