A special committee has weighed in on whether Folly Beach Public Safety Officer Ron Avallone should have been suspended for allowing a suspect in a sexual assault to leave the scene, the city’s top official said Tuesday.
But Mayor Tim Goodwin said he couldn’t detail the recommendation that the panel submitted late last week. Citing Avallone’s public fight against his suspension, The Post and Courier requested the document under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.
Officials didn’t immediately respond to the inquiry Tuesday.
“I’m not going to discuss personnel matters,” Goodwin said. “The council will determine when they want to hold a meeting to talk about this in executive session.”
Goodwin said that meeting had not been scheduled.
Bill Rogers, president of the S.C. Press Association, said that city officials can consider action against an employee during executive session, but a committee’s findings should be made public.
Rogers was not familiar with Avallone’s case.
“It was an open meeting,” Rogers said, “so how can they withhold that?”
Avallone fought his one-week suspension during a grievance hearing in late August, when more than 50 community members filled a room and spilled into the hallway.
Attempts to contact the officer Tuesday were not successful.
At issue was Avallone’s handling of a June 23 incident when he was informed of a complaint against a resident he knew well: 67-year-old Fred Rogers.
Rogers was accused of fondling a girl on the beach, but Avallone claimed he was told only that Rogers had caused a disturbance. Avallone spoke with Rogers and allowed him to leave, even though other officers sensed that Rogers had been drinking.
Avallone also departed as two other officers learned that Rogers had been blamed in the sexual assault.
Later in the day, a woman said Rogers fondled her as she went for a swim in a condo pool.
Public Safety Chief Dennis Brown recommended that Avallone be suspended because he didn’t place Rogers under arrest, which would have prevented the later incident.
Avallone appealed his punishment, saying he appropriately defused the original situation by escorting Rogers away from the beach.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.