Plant City police chief fired for misconduct; extramarital affair exposed, partly took place on duty

PLANT CITY, Fla. - Plant City Police Chief Steve Singletary was fired Tuesday, due to a three year extra-marital affair that lead to several Code of Conduct violations.  

During a news conference, City Manager Greg Horwedel said the violations "severely compromised Mr. Singletary's ability to server as Plant City's Police Chief."

Horwedel indicated that Singletary falsely called in sick, and used tax payer money to fund some of trysts with his mistress, Melissa Hardwick.  Hardwick is married.

Horwedel said the misconduct began occurring when Singletary, 45, was still a captain with the department.  He was promoted to top cop last April.

Read 180 pages of documents related to the investigation at  http://media2.abcactionnews.com/html/documents/2014/PCchiefPart1.pdf and  http://media2.abcactionnews.com/html/documents/2014/PCchiefPart2.pdf

The affair came to light after the mistress's husband, Jason Hardwick, followed the couple to Orlando on January 12, took photographs of them at dinner and threatened to show them at a City Hall meeting.

At the time, Singletary was on an all expense paid trip to Orlando to attend a police conference. 

Fearful of those photographs making their way to city leaders, Singletary repeatedly texted his mistress's husband to apologize.

"It was truly painful for me," texted Singletary.  "The guilt killed me.  Ur a good guy."

Hardwick responded, "Steve have completely destroyed my perfect life."

Hardwick goes on to mention the three children he has with his wife.

Text messages were also traded between Singletary's wife and his mistress.  The two women were friends prior to the affair.

"I loved you like a sister!" Courtney Singletary wrote.

The top cop's wife also wrote that she intended to stand by her husband and asked Melissa Hardwick to avoid a "witch hunt."

Singletary, according to Horwedel, was given the opportunity to resign but did not. 

During a sworn interview, Singletary denied any part of the affair took place while on duty.

"Clearly I made a mistake, a mistake in my private life.  I kept it separate from my job.  It didn't cloud my judgment," Singletary said.

Under oath, Melissa Hardwick stated she and Singletary used the paid hotel room in Orlando as a place to engage in sex.

Singletary denied this and called Hardwick a liar.

"It is untruthful," he told investigators.

Melissa Hardwick added that all Singletary cared about was what would happen to his career if the affair was exposed.

In a sworn statement, Hardwick  explained how Commissioner Billy Keel contacted her via a friend and asked that she not participate in the investigation so the Chief could keep his job.

Singletary was issued a letter Tuesday informing him he'd been terminated.

Singletary has 30 days to make a written request for a post-termination hearing for the purpose of presenting evidence to clear his name of any stigmatizing information.

Singletary had been with the Plant City Police Department for 16 years.

He was salaried at $85,000 annually.

Investigation Timeline

January 13, 2014- Assistant City Manager Bill McDaniel received a phone call from Plant City Police Chief Steven Singletary. During the conversation, Singletary told McDaniel that he had become involved in an extramarital affair and that the woman's husband had taken photographs of them together at a restaurant in Orlando, where Singletary had been staying to attend a conference of the Florida Police Chief's Association.  Singletary advised that the mistress's husband might try to come to that night's commission meeting  with the photographs and to hold a press conference on the extramarital affair.

January 14, 2014-City Manager Greg Horwedel, McDaniel and Singletary met. Singletary repeated his admission of an extramarital affair but stated the matter was personal and had nothing to do with his position or job performance.

January 17, 2014- The mistress's husband, Jason Hardwick came to City Hall to meet with McDaniel and Horwedel in the morning. Hardwick advised that Chief Singletary's wife, Courtney Singletary, showed up at the City Hall meeting on Monday to prevent Hardwick from speaking, showing the photographs and holding a press conference.

In the afternoon, Horwedel and McDaniel met with the Chief Singletary at City Hall. Singletary was informed at that time that Hardwick had come forward with complaints/concerns that warranted an administrative investigation. Singletary was advised he would be placed on administrative leave.

An incident also occurred the same afternoon in the City Hall parking lot between Chief Singletary's wife, Hardwick and his companion. Horwedel and McDaniel called the Chief and issued him a directive to have no contact with the Hardwicks and to prevent his wife from doing so because those actions would be detrimental to the investigation.

January 19, 2014- McDaniels obtained sworn, video-recorded statements from the Hardwicks.

January 21, 2014- Horwedel and McDaniel against met with Chief Singletary

at City Hall. Singletary was informed a formal investigation was going on and his cooperation was expected.

January 22, 2014- John Lewis, a retired Sarasota police chief, is hired as a private investigator by the city to look into Chief Singletary's conduct.

January 23, 2014- Potential witnesses are interviewed by Lewis and McDaniel. Those interviews resulted in the understanding that those interviewed had no knowledge of the matter under investigation.

In the afternoon, Lewis and McDaniel met with Melissa Hardwick (mistress) to go over her previous sworn statements. At that time, she also led them to a location on Wood Court in Plant City, which she positively identified as the location of an occurrence for the incident that occurred on February 19, 2011, in which she and Chief Singletary were blocked in by a business owner.

That property is located at 2002 Wood Court.

Without Hardwick present, the business owner was questioned. The business owner said he called police when he saw two suspicious cars on his property. Chief Singletary was in one car and his mistress in another. They learned the following:

  • Prior to an officer arriving, Chief Singletary apparently got out of his car, flashed a badge and told the business owner it would be in his best interest to let them leave. At the time, Singletary was only a captain.
  • The business owner advised that he took pictures of both vehicles and took down their tag numbers.
  • The business owner said a Plant City police officer, now identified as Officer Dennis Pawlowski, arrived in a marked car
  • After talking with Singletary, the officer advised the business owner that Singletary and the would leave and there would be no further problems
  • The business owner was not aware that Singletary was a captain with Plant City PD.
  • A short time later, the mistress returned to the property and apologized to the business owner and his wife and pleaded with him not to share the photographs with anyone.
  • Further investigation into dispatch records revealed Sgt. Mike Mathis allegedly falsified the documents to show that both cars were gone upon arrival. Mathis was the one who took and handled the 911 call.
  • Hardwick advised that she and Chief Singletary met at the Wood Court location five or six times over the course of their three year relationship and in the majority of those meetings sexual activity occurred between them.

January 24, 2014- Chief Singletary participated in a sworn interview with Lewis.

January 25, 2014- Officer Dennis Pawlowski is questioned about the occurrence he responded to on Wood Court. Pawlowski reportedly to Lewis he thought the situation was "weird" and that something was "clearly going on."

Investigative Findings

Note: Findings were provided by City Manager Greg Horwedel, Assistant City Manager Bill McDaniel and Retired Chief of Sarasota, John Lewis. Lewis was retained by the City as a private, independent investigator.

February 19, 2011-

  • Singletary and Hardwick were involved in an incident at 2002 Wood Court. 
  • Singletary did flash a badge to the business owner and stated to the effect, "It would be in your best interest to leave us alone."  Behavior of this nature by a sworn officer is indicative of an attempt to use one's status as a law enforcement officer to coerce a private citizen to cease activities that would ultimately result in the revelation of misconduct by the involved sworn officer.
  • Singletary used his position as Police Chief to access secured City property on Wood Court at least five times.
  • Singletary's accessing of the secure City property in each of those occasions was for the purpose of facilitating his extra-marital affair with Hardwick.
  • Access to the secured City property was gained via a set of keys that Singletary possessed solely as a result of his status on the police force.
  • Hardwick told investigators that every instance where she went to the Wood Court property, which happens to be a pistol range, some sort of sexual activity occurred between her and Chief Singletary.
  • Hardwick advised that due to the incident on Wood Court, she and Chief Singletary ceased to meet at the location and instead began to frequent a location near Roberts Ranch Road. They reportedly used that location for their meetings and sexual encounters at least 30 times.

January 12, 2013 (Orlando Incident)

  • Chief Singletary was in Orlando for a department paid conference. He had a city owned vehicle and the conference registration fees were paid by the city. His hotel room was also paid for by the city.  Singletary was also paid a per diem for his meals while at the conference.
  • Singletary and Hardwick both admitted that they planned to meet and Hardwick stayed in his hotel room.
  • Jason Hardwick was suspicious about his wife's activity and followed her to Orlando, where he located her vehicle at the Rosen Center Hotel; the same hotel where the conference was held.
  • Melissa Hardwick admitted to engaging in sexual activity
    • with the Chief while staying in his hotel room.
    • Hardwick's husband followed his wife and the Chief to Bahama Breeze Restaurant where he took photographs.
    • Both Singletary and his mistress drove back to Plant City that night in separate cars. Singletary returned to the conference the following day.

    2013 USE OF LEAVE TIME BY CHIEF SINGLETARY

    • Melissa Hardwick provided a list of dates in 2013 that she and Chief Singletary faked an illness and called into their jobs in order to rendezvous. Hardwick said they would go to hotels in Lakeland for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.
    • Hardwick provided nine separate dates for the above stated encounters.
    • On three of the dates provided, City Payroll records reflect that Chief Singletary took vacation hours to cover his absences from his duties as Police Chief.
    • On two of the dates provided, City Payroll records reflect that Chief Singletary took sick time to cover his absence from his duties as Police Chief.
    • On four dates provided, City Payroll records reflect Chief Singletary did not take any form of leave time, and would be assumed, therefore, to have been at work.

    PARKING OF POLICE CAR

    • Melissa Hardwick provided a list of dates in 2013 in which Chief Singletary dressed for work and then drove his City work vehicle to locations within Plant City, where he parked it unattended while he had sexual trysts with her.
    • Hardwick admitted that Chief Singletary would get into her car and they would drive to a location to engage in sex acts.
    • According to Hardwick, on their way back from one rendezvous on December 31, 2013, Chief Singletary took a call from McDaniel regarding an incident involving kids. Singletary took the call on his work phone.
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