Behavior in D.C. was poor

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Column by Jim Clark

It’s a heck of a way to spend a holiday weekend, yet that’s what I did … reading the attorneys’ report on the conclusion into the investigation of Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham, all 35 pages of it.

While clearing Graham of harassment charges, thereby allowing for his reinstatement, it contains descriptions of some other activities that are not what we should expect of our city employees, whether or not they are police officers.

This detailed, sometimes x-rated document delves into the activities of some Ocala police officers and officials during a visit to the Washington, D.C. area. It is filled with descriptions of actions at two drinking establishments.

The trip to D.C. was for a fallen officers memorial which included mention of Ocala’s Jared Forsyth, who was accidently shot and killed during a training exercise in 2015.

That visit would have been fine, except for what followed. The report says that “witness testimony revealed that all officers were engaging in social activities to build camaraderie, and relieve grief association with Officer Forsyth’s passing.”

Referring to the two officers who filed the harassment charges, the report says “there are multiple photographs of both officers drinking alcohol, dancing in nightclubs, singing karaoke and otherwise socializing.”

Is this how you relieve grief, by patronizing such D.C. area establishments such as the “Laughing Man Tavern” on G Street in Washington, and “O’Malley’s Pub” on Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington, Virginia?

The Ocala City Council and the Marion County Commission should crack down on the behavior of their employees while on these trips. All itineraries and approximate costs should be voted on publicly before the trip takes place, so that if the governing body wants to place restrictions on the trip, it has time to do so, and if the public wants to object, it can do so.

Although there is an indication in the 35-page report that in one instance some of the visitors paid for something at their own expense, still, this is our tax money that’s being spent on trips, including some of which could be called “junkets,” a derogatory term which indicates that the trip isn’t necessary.

The basis for the trip that got the Ocala chief in trouble was legitimate … to honor fallen officers, and one visit to a Holocaust site was justified as educational. But somehow, visits to the Laughing Man Tavern and O’Malley’s Pub don’t seem to fit the mood.

There is a very touching fallen officers’ memorial held each year at the McPherson Complex in Ocala. It draws a good crowd of all local law agencies and families of the fallen, and is done with the dignity and solemnity that the fallen deserve.

After the ceremony, they go back to work.

That’s the way we should be honoring those who gave their lives for us.

Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen and West Marion Messenger.