Officer files civil suit against Bradenton police chief, city

A Bradenton Police officer is suing the city and the Bradenton Police Department over what he...
A Bradenton Police officer is suing the city and the Bradenton Police Department over what he says is retaliation for exposing alleged wrongdoing by Police Chief Melanie Bevan and other top commanders in the department.(WWSB-TV)
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 2:03 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) - A Bradenton Police officer is suing the city and the Bradenton Police Department over what he says is retaliation for exposing alleged wrongdoing by Police Chief Melanie Bevan and other top commanders in the department.

In a civil suit filed March 9 in federal district court, Patrick Mahoney claims after he signed a sworn affidavit alleging unethical activity, he was transferred from narcotics division to road patrol; was denied a promotion to detective; denied overtime pay and placed under an internal investigation and placed on administrative leave for allegedly lying in his affidavit.

Mahoney’s suit claims his First and 14th Amendment rights were violated; and the retribution he suffered in a violation of the Public Whistleblowers Act.

Bevan has declined comment on the suit, a department spokeswoman said.

The suit is the latest in a series of ongoing disputes between officers and the union representing rank-and-file officers, and Bevan.

In September, Bevan was cleared of any wrongdoing following accusations by another officer that she conducted an illegal search of a residence during an arrest in July.

Brown said retired Hillsborough County Judge Gregory Holder, who was asked by Brown to conduct an independent investigation into the charges, found no Fourth Amendment violations in connection with the pat down of two male subjects and a visual inspection of a home July 14.

The former patrol officer who filed the complaint, Hannah Kalchbrenner, resigned from the force, along with her husband -- who was also an officer in Bradenton -- after she said she was “ambushed” by internal affairs investigators after filing the complaint, and was “thereafter interrogated and illegally detained.”

Kalchbrenner, through the Southwest Florida Police Benevolent Association, filed an unfair labor practice suit with the state Public Employees Relations Commission.

ABC7 has filed a public records request with the commission for the information on that suit.

In August, the police union released signed affidavits by three officers, including Mahoney, accusing Bevan and other top officers of suggesting that detectives harass a suspect in order to crack a 20-year-old cold case, and of allowing Internal Affairs to violate the rights of officers.

Also, and, perhaps most disturbingly, Bevan is accused of conspiring to steal a personal cell phone to cover up an affair between a senior officer and a married dispatcher who took her own life after the affair came to light.

“The startling revelation by one of our veteran police sergeants that Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan and (former) Deputy Chief Paul McWade conspired to confiscate and search the personal cell phone of his deceased wife is further evidence that Chief Melanie Bevan and her administration operate without any regard for the law,” said union President Mick McHale.

Cold case

Patrick Mahoney, a five-year veteran of the department, says in his affdavit, that in 2020, he was assigned to the case of the 2000 murder of 25-year-old Tara Reilly. The woman was found lying dead and naked in a pond behind Walmart on Cortez Road in Bradenton. The case has never been solved.

In February 2021, Mahoney said he attended a meeting about the case with several officers, including Bevan, Deputy Chief Josh Cramer, Deputy Chief Paul McWade, Capt. William Knight, and Lt. Shannon Seymour.

Mahoney says he identified a suspect whom he believed could identify the killer, but added the suspect did not want to cooperate with police; also the state attorney’s office had denied a request for an arrest warrant.

Participants in the meeting began suggesting ways to compel the suspect to share information.

“At that point, Chief Bevan asked whether or not the suspect had a valid driver’s license and suggested that ‘we crash into his car’ and thereafter arrest him for driving on a suspended license,” the affidavit says.

Mahoney says Bevan made other suggestions, including repossessing the suspect’s truck, getting his power disconnected, and even having his children removed from his custody. “We need to make this guy’s life hell until he cooperates,” Bevan is quoted as saying.

Seymour, who has also filed his own affidavit, described at one point Chief Bevan leaving the room to take a phone call, “and I promptly stated that we would not be employing any of the outrageous and illegal strategies that Chief Bevan ... proposed,” Seymour’s statement says.

Seymour continues to work at the department and has requested that the city provide whistleblower protection against any retaliation.

An affair uncovered

Eva Kelly was a dispatcher with the Bradenton Police department for six years. She was married to Bradenton Police Sgt. Joseph Kelly.

Kelly resigned her job in 2019. On Dec. 2, 2019, she took her own life at her home in Manatee County, while her husband was working the night shift.

Kelly, in his affidavit, says a few months after her death, said he suspected his wife was having an affair with then-Deputy Chief Paul McWade.

“I also heard from multiple officers who attended training seminars where St. Pete officers were also training, that St. Pete officers would chide BPD officers to ‘hide your wives’ from Deputy Chief McWade,” the affidavit said.

It is alleged that Bevan’s command staff assigned officers to get close to Kelly and provide support, but in reality, their mission was to get Eva Kelly’s phone without her grieving husband’s knowledge.

“It is incomprehensible to learn now that BPD was paying officers to spy on me and directing them to steal my property under the guise of compassion and sympathy,” Joseph Kelly wrote.

Mahoney’s affidavit agreed with Kelly’s assertion, saying he was ordered to stick with Kelly in order to secure the phone, saying McWade wanted to keep Joseph from seeing texts Eva had on her phone.

“It was clear that Deputy Chief McWade did not have any regard for Sgt. Kelly’s personal property or for his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful seizure,” Mahoney wrote in his affidavit.