A former San Diego police claims he was fired by his ex-employer after refusing to stay quiet about the misuse of federal funds to buy a satellite dish for the mayor.
Last year, CBS affiliate KFMB (Channel 8) filed an investigative story that revealed the city of San Diego had spent thousands of dollars installing and maintaining a vehicle-mounted DirecTV dish for the mayor’s use in a government-owned vehicle.
Officials said at the time that the DirecTV equipment was needed so the mayor and other city leaders could monitor local and national news channels in the event of a civil emergency. But KFMB, relying on documents obtained through public records requests, noted that the package the city subscribed to gave the mayor access to a number of entertainment and sports channels including ESPN and the NFL Sunday Ticket.
KFMB said the city could have subscribed to a cheaper package that would have saved taxpayers money and still given the mayor and other officials access to local and national news channels without the added sports programming. A city spokesperson told the station that the difference — around $5 a month — was negligible.
On Monday, a routine review of public records by the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper turned up new details about the satellite setup. According to a wrongful termination claim filed late last year by former police officer Shannon Hart, the setup was paid for through federal grant money that had been earmarked for homeland security measures.
Hart claims he was fired from the agency after 16 years on the force because he refused to stay silent about the city’s misuse of federal grant money to fund the DirecTV setup, according to documents cited by the Union-Tribune.
“SDPD’s motivation to terminate Officer Hart was enhanced by SDPD’s concern that Shannon Hart could and might disclose (the police chief and the mayor’s) false statements to the media when the satellite dish was discovered and reported,” the lawsuit said according to the newspaper.
The San Diego Police Department disputed Hart’s allegations in a statement to the Union-Tribune, saying the DirecTV equipment and television package was paid for through regular funds and not federal homeland security grants.
“The installation was paid for out of the Police Department’s budget as is the ongoing monthly costs for a basic cable package,” the statement said according to the report. “No federal Homeland Security grant funding was spent on the satellite dish.”
According to records noted by the Union-Tribune and KFMB, the city paid around $3,500 for the installation of the DirecTV equipment and a little over $30 a month in programming costs.
Hart also alleges in his claim that the city bought satellite phones through homeland security grants but failed to comply with a condition that the phone be kept at San Diego’s Emergency Operations Center, the newspaper said.
Hart’s claim has yet to be taken up by the agency. If the San Diego Police Department rejects his claim, his next step would be to file a lawsuit against the city, the Union-Tribune reported.