FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – City officials fired Chief Larry Scirotto after just over six months of leading the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
Chris Lagerbloom, the city manager, announced the hiring in June and the firing on Thursday. Scirotto’s swear-in ceremony was on Aug. 16.
Lagerbloom released a statement saying it was in the city’s best interest to “separate employment” after an “extensive investigation” following employees’ complaints.
“The chief is an at-will employee. He has no contract. No severance.,” said Alain E. Boileau, the city attorney.
On Thursday night, Scirotto said over the phone that he can’t comment on his termination until he consults with legal counsel. Lagerbloom decided Luis Alvarez, the assistant chief of investigations, will serve as Fort Lauderdale’s acting chief as the search for a new chief begins again.
“I think it demonstrates that when I think that there is an opportunity that the chief is not the one to lead the department that I am not scared to make a change,” Lagerbloom said.
Scirotto was the subject of an investigation that resulted in the firing of John Herbst, the city’s auditor, last month. He was also the subject of a workplace discrimination investigation by attorney Gregg Rossman.
Rossman was investigating allegations by at least four employees alleging there were Equal Employment Opportunity violations related to promotions. His findings included this complaint: “The chief on more than one occasion, to different groups of people, pointed to the wall in the Chief’s conference room and stated, ‘That wall is too white’ and ‘I’m gonna change that.’
“The wall displays pictures of FLPD Command Staff.”
“We need to make those promotions based upon merit and the findings were that those selections were not necessarily based upon experience or other things that were allowed to be used as qualifiers,” Lagerbloom said. “Diversity in any department is a plus and we strive to be diverse, we strive to represent the community that we serve, there’s just certain lawful ways to allow that diversity to happen and in this case, the investigative report found that we didn’t quite follow the law in how we were working toward those diversity goals.”
It’s not yet clear what will happen to those who were promoted.
Lagerbloom said that he will need to, in conjunction with attorneys and Human Resources, “redo the processes that we don’t believe were done fairly” in the coming days.
In the short term he said “nothing is changing” that it is “status quo at this time,” adding that he believes the “promotions that were made were very talented people who are leaders in our police department. I have to get through a different process to find out if any wrong selections were made, but I have all the confidence in the world in the people that are in the positions who were promoted.”
Herbst, who worked for the city for 16 years, was investigating Scirotto for working a second job as a National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball referee — on days his timesheet indicated he was on the clock as the city’s chief. Scirotto denied the accusation regarding his NCAA job.
Before coming to Fort Lauderdale, Scirotto had a 23-year career in the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and left there as assistant chief. During his tenure in Fort Lauderdale, he announced a plan to establish the city’s gun intelligence center.
Read the city’s statement
6 p.m. report
Local 10 News’ Assignment Desk Editor Emily Hales contributed to this report.