HOLLY HILL, Fla. — According to a recently released report, an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and a toxic work culture within the the Holly Hill Police Department centered around four high-ranking individuals on the force.

Three of them, including the former police chief and a former captain have resigned, as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement continues its investigation into the case.

What You Need To Know

  • The city of Holly Hill recently released the results of in internal investigation into complaints of sexual harassment and a toxic work culture at the Holly Hill Police Department

  • City Manager Joe Forte said that the city did get an email last year from former officer Robert Milne that contained allegations about the inner workings of the department

  • The city manager said that due to pending litigation, he could not say if the city took any action after receiving Milne's email

City Manager Joe Forte confirmed the city received an email last year from former officer Robert Milne. Forte said that due to pending litigation, though, he could not say if the city took any action after the email was received. 

The internal investigation conducted by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office revealed that at the time, Milne was perceived as a “disgruntled employee,” and there was no documentation into the allegations made by him in his post-retirement letter.

According to investigative records, allegations about the Holly Hill Police Department centered on four high-ranking officers. Former Chief Jeff Miller, former Capt. Chris Yates and Sgt. Shannon Fountain, who have all resigned, and Sgt. Thomas Bentley, who is facing disciplinary action.

The documents reveal at least one complaint of harassment against Miller, then a captain, was made in 2012. A memorandum details allegations of harassment from a female member of the police department. According to information in Miller's personnel file, the investigation determined that the claims of harassment were unfounded. Miller also had a suspension and demotion noted in his file.

Bentley had one internal affairs investigation in his file — a mostly redacted report that details an incident from March 2013 that involved allegations of misconduct concerning a child custody issue.

The documents also claim that Bentley used his position as a law enforcement officer to harass and keep track of an individual.

After being accused, records show that Bentley was also admitted he used a law enforcement database to verify his personal information and a vehicle he owned with an unidentified individual. His file show that Bentley's access to the system was revoked and he was ordered to have no contact with other parties involved in the matter.

Fountain had two incidents in his file: One was in August 2012, where he was found to have “quibbled” facts to distance himself from another ongoing personnel matter within the department. His personnel file shows he was suspended for 40 hours, and a probation already in progress was extended.

The other incident is from 2013 and ended with his resignation from the department after he engaged in a pursuit out of jurisdiction. He left the Holly Hill Police Department, but was hired back nearly two years later.

Yates’ file revealed no major disciplinary actions. 

The Holly Hill City Manager said that his email responses would be limited because, “unfortunately, this matter has moved from an investigation into a notice of intent for lawsuit."

Holly Hill Mayor Chris Via posted the following statement on his Facebook page: 

“The internal affairs report on certain members of the HHPD has been released, and after reviewing the findings, I am extremely disappointed and disturbed by what I read. I condemn the behavior detailed in the report in the strongest terms. As both a citizen and an elected official, I expect and demand that our department operates above reproach. These actions have tarnished the reputation of our police department and have significantly impacted our community.

As we move forward, it is imperative that we take significant steps to rebuild and strengthen our police department. This rebuilding effort starts with the hiring of our new Police Chief, Byron Williams. With his extensive experience and commitment to community policing, I am confident that Chief Williams will lead our department with honor and restore the trust and respect our community deserves. I will be backing his efforts to renew the department and rebuild it to be better than ever. The dedicated men and women who did nothing wrong deserve the opportunity to restore trust, dignity, and honor to their agency.

Throughout my tenure as your mayor, I have always pledged to back our officers. While I do not support those who acted wrongly and betrayed our trust, the good men and women of our police department still deserve our full backing and support. They have always had our backs, and now it’s time for us to step up and have theirs. As your Mayor, this is what I will do, and I will do it unapologetically. I know I will face criticism from some who call for the disbanding of our police department, but I will always stand firmly behind and support our officers who serve with integrity and dedication.

Thank you for your continued support and for standing with our police during this critical time of rebuilding and renewal. Together, we will rebuild our police department and make it stronger, more transparent, and more committed to the safety and well-being of our community than ever before. Let’s come together to show our support for the dedicated officers who protect and serve us every day.”