CORAL GABLES — In a time when the public is treated to almost weekly video scandals of police misconduct that often results in death or injury, it feels almost quaint to have a photo-scandal centered on allegations of mere sexual harassment.
That’s the situation with Coral Gables police chief Ed Hudak, who dropped in on a pool party held and attended by female officers last July and took part in a group photo that some felt was inappropriate.
The picture of a uniformed Hudak with his bikini-wearing subordinates made the rounds and even showed up on Instagram. Shortly thereafter, an anonymous letter made its way to city officials asserting the women were harassed, and the city accordingly opened an investigation.
In the end, it was found that there were no formal violations inherent in Hudak’s conduct. According to the 93-page report on the incident, the independent investigator (retired Pennsylvania officer Charles Skurkis) “failed to identify any conduct at the pool party expressly prohibited by [Coral Gables Police Department] rules and regulations.”
The Instagram posting was made by a user named dmannow256, and suggested that Hudak’s presence was inappropriate since sex toys were present at the party. The investigation into the incident did not bear this out, and the attendees of the gathering, upon interview, claimed to have no issues with Hudak’s attendance.
“None expressed any level of discomfort with Chief Hudak’s attendance at the pool party or his actions,” Skurkis said. “He was an invited guest and, based upon individual statements and available photographic imagery, he appeared welcome by all attendees.”
Nonetheless, Hudak finds himself in the hot seat, since the brouhaha has cast the department in a questionable light, and Skurkis acknowledged this in his report as well.
“An individual while serving in the capacity of Police Chief must remain cognizant, at all times, that his or her conduct may be closely scrutinized by subordinates, the media, and the citizens they serve, regardless of acting in an official capacity or otherwise,” Skurkis went on.
Echoing the negative sentiment was Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, a Gables City Manager was an axe to grind against Hudak from years of butting heads with the chief. Swanson-Rivenbark penned a sharply critical letter stating her concern about Hudak’s inability “to honorably and objectively lead the police department.”
The seething city official expanded on her position: “Failure to take the necessary corrective actions laid out for you in the reprimand and failure to consistently practice more professional and mature judgment moving forward will result in further disciplinary action, including termination.”
The feud dates back to 2014 when both Swanson-Rivenbark and Hudak assumed their current positions. The two have failed to see eye-to-eye on a number of administrative issues.
Hudak, who has been scandal-free prior to the pool party fiasco, has no intention of resigning and—given the facts to date— has little true reason to do so.