3 SF sergeants cleared in leak of memo to reporter
Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer
Copyright 2005 The Chronicle Publishing Co.
The San Francisco Police Commission, acting on the chief's recommendation, voted unanimously Wednesday night to drop internal disciplinary charges against three officers who were accused of leaking a confidential Police Department memo.
The charges were dropped after new evidence came forward that cleared the officers of wrongdoing, said Capt. Charles Keohane, who runs the department's risk management office. He would not disclose the exculpatory evidence.
Also declining comment was Police Chief Heather Fong, who filed the misconduct charges in August 2004 against former Sgt. Reno Rapagnani, now retired, his wife, Sgt. Leanna Dawydiak, and Sgt. Robert Bohanan.
As the charges were pending, Rapagnani and Dawydiak filed a federal lawsuit against Fong and the department, claiming they were being retaliated against for speaking publicly about deceptive police practices, a violation of their right to free speech.
A little more than a year before the charges were filed, Rapagnani and Dawydiak, who both worked as SFPD lawyers, publicly stated they believed the department was wrongfully withholding records of misconduct by officers.
In return for the commission dropping the misconduct charges, the couple agreed to drop the lawsuit. Dawydiak and Rapagnani said that as part of the settlement agreement, they would receive a combined $25,000.
"I'm glad this is over,'' Rapagnani said after the commission vote. "It's unfortunate that we had to go to federal court to clear our names.''
The three veteran officers attended the commission proceedings and were congratulated by family, friends and co-workers when their case was finally closed.
Fong had accused the officers of leaking a secret memo to a Chronicle reporter that discussed the job performance of former Officer Alex Fagan Jr. -- the son of former Police Chief Alex Fagan Sr. -- when he was a rookie on the force. The Sept. 19, 2002 memo, written by the younger Fagan's supervisor, said he had abused a suspect and couldn't control his anger. It was written shortly before Fagan Jr. and two other officers were involved in an altercation on Union Street with two civilians over a bag of steak fajitas.
As part of the investigation into the leak, police investigators looked at the officers' phone records to see whether they spoke with reporters. Rapagnani and Dawydiak admitted to regularly speaking with the press, but denied being the source of the leak of the memo to The Chronicle.
After they filed their lawsuit, Dawydiak and Rapagnani said they had given the reporter, Jaxon Van Derbeken, permission to say whether they were his sources for his reporting on the memo. The reporter then said they were not his sources, but he has not disclosed where he got his information.
"This was not the perfect resolution to this issue, but we believe it was the best outcome in order to allow our reporter to protect the confidentiality of his sources,'' said Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein.
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