Link to Anderson Valley Advertiser: theava.com
While he was chief of the Fort Bragg Police Department Scott Mayberry falsely accused one of his officers of leaking an official incident report. That's a serious charge. Any reader might rightfully ask, how'd you reach such a conclusion?
The answer derives from two sources, an end of year review and an unintentional prod by one of the former chief's loyal supporters. Though Mayberry resigned his post as chief of police in August, there are still quite a few Fort Bragg residents who believe he should be re-instated to his former position. Mayberry appeared before the newly constituted Fort Bragg City Council on December 8, 2014, to supposedly clear the air concerning the reasons that led to his August resignation. Yours truly wrote an appraisal of Mayberry's talk and online comments made by his wife. In the aftermath one of Mayberry's supporters stated on a Facebook site that I had printed her address in an article published in the AVA. This Mayberry supporter was a captain of a Neighborhood Watch group in Fort Bragg, so I went back through AVA pieces concerning Neighborhood Watch and the Fort Bragg PD, where I found no mention of the Mayberry supporter's address, so I shot off a personal message to her denying said mention. About a week passed with that nagging feeling that maybe I'd overlooked something. A deeper search revealed an April, 2014 article, not about Chief Mayberry or policing, but one about a proposed mental health center at 300 N. Harrison Street. The aforesaid Mayberry supporter did speak at a Fort Bragg City Council meeting in opposition to the project. The Mayberry supporter announced her address to show her proximity to the proposed mental health center. This particular Mayberry supporter is owed an apology, in that I claimed in a personal message to her that I hadn't printed her address when in fact I did in the article about 300 N. Harrison St.
The search for the possible address-naming story took me back through several AVA pieces concerning the Fort Bragg Police Department and former chief Scott Mayberry. The evidence concerning Scott Mayberry falsely accusing one of his officer's of leaking an offical incident report is practically right there on the printed page in a June, 2013 article I authored for the AVA. That piece concerned the so-called outside investigation conducted by retired Redding, California, PD captain Chuck Lebak, regarding possible inappropriate actions taken by Fort Bragg PD officer Craig Guydan. As a member of the group called Coast Copwatch yours truly had met with Lebak and spoken with him via the phone about several incidents involving Officer Guydan, but much of our conversations centered on the night of December 21, 2012 when Guydan shot a small dog outside of 501 Walnut Street. The June, 2013 article states: “During my discussion with Lebak and subsequent emails and a phone conversation, the investigator seemed less interested in digging into Guydan’s misdeeds than finding out how Coast Copwatch knew so much about Officer Guydan’s report concerning the dog shooting. In plain fact, Coast Copwatch obtained a copy of that report. How, when, and from whom we obtained the report is our business. At one point in a May 6th phone call Lebak said, “I want to know who is feeding you info?” After a brief pause, Lebak continued, “I’m suspicious of Officer ________.
Early on in our Friday, May 3rd conversation on Walnut Street, investigator Lebak had disparaged the police work of Officer ________.
Lebak spoke by phone with a second complainant late in May, making similar negative comments about Officer ________. Lebak again implied that Officer _______ leaked Guydan’s official report."
The June, 2013 article goes on: "This brings up an important question. Why is this investigator, Lebak, throwing Officer ________ under the bus in conversations to Coast Copwatch and a Fort Bragg resident? Since the investigator lives in Redding and visits Fort Bragg only occasionally it seems improbable that Lebak’s derogatory statements about Officer _______ derive from his own sporadic observations. Logically, one would have to infer that the statements are a reflection of someone else within the Fort Bragg Police Department. If the comments are Lebak’s thoughts alone, they clearly imply that he is a loose cannon conducting an investigation improperly. If Lebak’s negative statements about Officer _______ are modeled on similar comments he hears within the Fort Bragg Police Department then we have a much dirtier problem of infighting and professional jealousies within a small town police department, which brings into question how the department is being run."
A year and a half has past and a couple of bits of information can be made much clearer now. In June of 2013, Coast Copwatch and this writer were protecting the identity of the person who gave Copwatch a copy of the official reports filed by all three Fort Bragg PD officers at the scene on December 21, 2012 when Officer Guydan shot the dog. Those reports were written by Guydan and two other officers who arrived on the scene after the shooting. Coast Copwatch did not receive the reports from the officers who filed them, nor from any other Fort Bragg PD officer (past or present). The person who photocopied those reports in my presence has since died, so there is no longer any point in protecting his identity.
Coast Copwatch was given a copy of the officers' reports by the owner of the dog, the only member of the public who would logically be given the reports. Despite that fact appearing to be obvious, Scott Mayberry formally accused one of his officers of leaking the report. For Mayberry to have done so means one of two things. Either he lacks the most rudimentary investigative sense that anyone off the street, let alone a police officer, would possess or he deliberately accused and reprimanded a fellow officer for an action he knew was not true.
Let's look at the first possibility, which amounts to Mayberry lacking the intelligence to figure out who gave the report to Copwatch. There really was no mystery. The Fort Bragg PD, like most law enforcement agencies, keeps track of copies made of official incident reports. This is done through something similar to a date and time stamp on all items copied from department computers. If former chief Mayberry truly wanted to know that a copy of the dog shooting incident report had been handed out to the dog's owner, he could have easily checked. Mayberry would have failed to check only through laziness, stupidity, or because he had already settled on the notion that one of his officers leaked the report and he (Mayberry) was blind to the obvious truth. The latter possibility seems the most plausible. As the June, 2013 article alludes to, the Fort Bragg Police Department was rife with professional jealousy, pricinpally exhibited by then Chief Mayberry. It appears that he was nearly consumed with the paranoid delusion that one of his officers had leaked the Guydan dog shooting reports to Coast Copwatch.
Whether Mayberry's false accusations are an actionable offense would seem to be a matter for the district attorney's office. Therein lies a further rub. After his resignation from the Fort Bragg Police Department, Scott Mayberry was hired as an investigator by the Mendocino County District Attorney's office. This leads to questions about the pre-hire vetting process used by DA David Eyster. I attempted to reach Scott Mayberry by phone late last week. His wife, Roberta, answered. As soon as I identified myself, she responded, "Whatta you want?" I said that the AVA would be running a story and I was interested in getting a response or comment from Scott. I read her the opening line of this article. She seemed to step away from the phone for a few seconds then she said that Scott's statement was, 'You print things that aren't necessarily true.' She concluded by saying that he (Scott) would have no further comment.
An email to DA Eyster's public information officer, Mike Geniella, prompted this response: "Have forwarded on your message, but to be frank I'm not sure what the question is. Why would the chief's alleged false comments about an employee be an actionable offense? Was there a criminal conduct issue, and if so what was it? Further, a personnel matter is in its nature confidential. Chief Mayberry was hired by the DA for his long investigative experience. How has [sic] does the alleged personnel matter affect that experience?
Geniella's comments gave rise to this Mendocino County resident's further query: "Follow up questions for the DA then would be: 1) Was the position that Mayberry filled publicly noticed or simply a one-on-one agreement between the DA and Scott Mayberry? 2) Did anyone working for the DA's office question the current or longtime officers at Fort Bragg PD concerning their working relationships with Scott Mayberry? If so, how much weight was this given in the hiring process? 3) Was Scott Mayberry offered the position as a DA's investigator, formally or informally, before he went on leave from the Fort Bragg PD in early July? Or before he publicly resigned in August?
"I have not fully researched the California Criminal or Penal Codes regarding this type of police misconduct (false accusations by one officer against another), primarily because my initial research bogged down in the more obvious types of police misconduct (officer misconduct toward civilians/citizens), but eventually I will figure out what may or may not apply here. I would expect that Mr. Eyster would have the relevant code(s) more or less memorized, given his overall skill as an attorney. What is most potentially concerning to me as a writer, Coast Copwatch member, and long time citizen of Mendocino County is the depth of investigation, or lack thereof, done before the hiring of Scott Mayberry.
An additional question regarding Mr. Mayberry's health: At a December, 2014 Fort Bragg City Council meeting Scott Mayberry stated that approximately a year ago a physician advised him (Mayberry) that he needed six months away from work to recuperate. Mayberry further claimed that his time off in July, and possibly August, was not recuperative because he had to deal with constant questions about why he was away from work and what he described as underhanded, disrespectful treatment by Fort Bragg city staff. Why then was a man with obvious health issues hired by the DA's office in September? Were provisions built-in to his first months on the job to give him a light work load or did he start in full time in September?
There are numerous potential inconsistencies that need to be answered here."
A day later (December 27th), Geniella wrote: "The DA's Office is not going to comment on speculation, and unsubtantiated [sic] reports of misconduct. Mayberry's experience and skills were well known to DA Dave Eyster and his team of DA investigators, the best in Mendocino County law enforcement. Coast
residents now have an experienced DA investigator on site. The public benefits are large."
Wow! That's at least three direct questions about hard fact, time and date, items dodged (See Questions 1), 2), and 3) five paragraphs above). I'm no mentalist, but I wrote a message to someone close to the situation after Geniella's initial short response, "[I]t seems fairly clear that Eyster will try to shrug his shoulders and ignore the situation." As far as "unsubstantiated" reports of misconduct goes, if Eyster or his team had done any kind of thorough investigating themselves within the Fort Bragg PD they would have uncovered ample substantiation. It seems apparent to me that information gathered by Coast Copwatch would, at the least, lead one to believe that Mayberry violated the Government Code known as the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights. The inability of Eyster and his team to figure out what was going on within the Fort Bragg Police Department smacks of the phoney Lebak investigation all over again. It smacks of a good old boy network. It smacks of cover-up.
No one is setting out to ruin Scott Mayberry's life, but he does need to be, in some way, held to account for falsely accusing a fellow Fort Bragg police officer of leaking an official report. Mayberry has performed bravely at times while on the job, but his self-serving, self aggrandizing peformance before the Fort Bragg City Council in early December is too much. Clearly the man is living in a grandiose state of denial and the DA is filling out his visa application to join him in that state.