October 18, 2019
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HB 999

A bill to be entitled
2An act for the relief of Lawrence Femminella by the Palm
3Beach County Sheriff's Office; providing for an
4appropriation to compensate Lawrence Femminella for loss
5of consortium, false arrest, and the negligent training
6and hiring of deputy sheriffs by the Palm Beach County
7Sheriff's Office; providing a limitation on the payment of
8fees and costs; providing an effective date.
10     WHEREAS, Lawrence Femminella was employed by the Palm Beach
11County Sherriff's Office as a correctional officer and deputy
12sheriff and resided in Palm Beach County, and
13     WHEREAS, in March, 2003, Willoughby Farr was confined to
14the Palm Beach County jail awaiting sentencing on various felony
15charges for which he was facing a long prison term. In an effort
16to avoid a lengthy prison term and to garner favors from law
17enforcement officers, Farr concocted a story in which he claimed
18that several correctional officers were smuggling drugs into the
19Palm Beach County jail, and
20     WHEREAS, to further his scheme, Farr enrolled the
21assistance of Danny Negrych, who was a former correctional
22officer from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. Together
23Farr and Negrych fabricated a story in which Negrych claimed to
24be a member of a ring of correctional officers who regularly
25smuggled narcotic drugs into the jail. Farr then contacted the
26Organized Crime Bureau of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office
27and told his fabricated story, and
28     WHEREAS, Detective Jeffrey Clarke and Sergeant Jones, who
29were assigned to investigate Farr's drug smuggling allegations,
30used Farr as a confidential informant. Deputy Clarke did not
31have any prior training in investigating narcotics cases even
32though he was designated as the lead detective in the
33investigation, and
34     WHEREAS, Farr and the detectives agreed that if Farr
35provided evidence of the drug smuggling activities involving the
36correctional officers, the detectives would testify at Farr's
37sentencing in order to get Farr a more lenient sentence, and
38     WHEREAS, on three separate occasions Negrych and Farr
39arranged for cocaine and other illicit drugs to be delivered to
40the jail, but Lawrence Femminella was not involved in any of the
41deliveries, and
42     WHEREAS, in late June 2003, Farr was released on bond with
43the help of the detectives. The purpose of the release was to
44facilitate the criminal investigation regarding the alleged drug
45smuggling activities that involved certain correctional
46officers, and
47     WHEREAS, after his release, Farr claimed he could meet with
48Lawrence Femminella to discuss drugs. Farr had Negrych contact
49Femminella to arrange a meeting. The purpose of the meeting, as
50stated by Negrych to Femminella, was to interest Lawrence
51Femminella in starting a landscaping business. A meeting was
52arranged for July 8, 2003, at a local restaurant, and
53     WHEREAS, Lawrence Femminella appeared at the scheduled
54meeting expecting to meet Negrych, who failed to appear.
55Instead, Farr met with Femminella claiming that Negrych was
56unable to attend. The meeting was monitored and recorded by the
57Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and there were no discussions
58about narcotics at the meeting. Femminella and Negrych discussed
59only the landscaping business, and
60     WHEREAS, in late July 2003, Farr was arrested again for
61violating the terms of his bond. After his arrest, Farr
62continued his role as an informant for the Palm Beach County
63Sheriff's Office and placed telephone calls to Negrych regarding
64the delivery of narcotics into the jail, and
65     WHEREAS, during this period Farr also placed several calls
66to Lawrence Femminella's cellular telephone and on each occasion
67left a message asking Lawrence Femminella to return the call. In
68response to Farr's several messages, Lawrence Femminella
69returned the call on a single occasion and left a message for
70Farr to quit contacting him. Afterward, Femminella changed his
71cellular telephone number in order to avoid Farr's calls, and
72     WHEREAS, in early September 2003, Farr also made several
73telephone calls to a woman who identified herself as Lawrence
74Femminella's wife Gayle, and they discussed the smuggling of
75drugs into the jail. It was these telephone calls that led to
76the arrest of Gayle Femminella, along with her husband Lawrence
77Femminella. It was later determined that the woman was not Gayle
78Femminella but an imposter hired by Farr and Negrych to further
79their scheme, and
80     WHEREAS, during the telephone call between Farr and the
81female impersonator posing as Gayle Femminella, the two would
82discuss having Lawrence Femminella deliver drugs to Farr in
83jail. The female impersonator then requested the moneys for the
84drugs to be delivered to the Femminella's home and for
85Femminella to deliver the narcotics to Farr, and
86     WHEREAS, on September 10, 2003, two undercover agents
87wearing recording devices attempted to deliver moneys to the
88Femminella's home. Gayle Femminella answered the door and the
89agents told Mrs. Femminella that they were delivering money for
90Farr. Not only did Gayle Femminella refuse to accept the money,
91she was described by police as being confused as to why the
92police were at her house. She immediately called her husband who
93was at work at the jail and reported the incident to him. The
94agents' encounter with Gayle Femminella was recorded by
95detectives from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. The
96detectives realized that the voice of Gayle Femminella was
97completely different from the voice recording of the female
98impersonator, and
99     WHEREAS, alarmed by the unusual events, including the
100messages from Farr, the visit to his home by unknown persons
101offering money from Farr, and the July 8th meeting with Farr,
102Lawrence Femminella immediately wrote a letter to his supervisor
103at the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office which explained the
104events involving the meeting on July 8, 2003, the unsolicited
105phone calls, and the visits to his home with the offer of money,
107     WHEREAS, on the evening of September 11, 2003, Lawrence
108Femminella and his wife Gayle Femminella were arrested at their
109home in the presence of their children, taken in handcuffs to
110jail, and held in a jail cell at the Palm Beach County jail
111where they were interviewed. When the detectives confronted
112Gayle Femminella about tape recordings that appeared to
113incriminated her, Mrs. Femminella asked to hear the tapes. When
114the detectives played the tapes, it became readily apparent that
115the female's voice on the tape was not the voice of Gayle
116Femminella, and
117     WHEREAS, on September 12, 2003, the detectives interviewed
118Farr and confronted him with the fabricated evidence against
119Gayle Femminella. According to the detectives, Farr admitted
120that he had fabricated much of the evidence in order to get a
121more lenient sentence, and
122     WHEREAS, Deputy Clarke commenced the criminal investigation
123of Farr's allegations of the smuggling of illicit drugs into the
124Palm Beach County jail in May of 2003, which terminated in
125November 2004. At the conclusion of the investigation, the
126Femminellas were completely exonerated and received a personal
127apology from the Sheriff, and
128     WHEREAS, at the conclusion of the criminal investigation,
129the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office conducted an internal
130affairs investigation. The internal affairs investigation
131concluded that Deputy Clarke was guilty of neglect of duty and
132that the accusations against the Femminellas were totally
133unfounded and without merit, and
134     WHEREAS, on May 11, 2005, Lawrence Femminella filed an
135Amended Complaint against the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office
136for false arrest, negligent training and hiring of its deputies,
137and loss of consortium, and
138     WHEREAS, the case of Lawrence Femminella was tried before a
139jury, and on February 6, 2006, the jury returned a verdict in
140favor of Lawrence Femminella, and a final judgment in favor of
141Lawrence Femminella in the sum of $816,200 was entered against
142the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office on February 8, 2006, and
143     WHEREAS, Lawrence Femminella has been paid $100,000 by the
144Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, and he seeks satisfaction in
145the amount of $716,200, the balance of the final judgment, NOW,
148Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
150     Section 1.  The facts stated in the preamble to this act
151are found and declared to be true.
152     Section 2.  Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office is
153authorized and directed to appropriate from funds of the county
154not otherwise appropriated and to draw a warrant in the sum of
155$716,200, payable to Lawrence Femminella, as compensation for
156loss of consortium, false arrest, and the negligent training and
157hiring of deputy sheriffs by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's
159     Section 3.  The amount paid by the Palm Beach County
160Sheriff's Office and the amount awarded under this act are
161intended to provide the sole compensation for all present and
162future claims arising out of the factual situation described in
163this act regarding Lawrence Femminella. The total amount paid
164for attorney's fees, lobbying fees, costs, and other similar
165expenses relating to this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the
166amount awarded under this act.
167     Section 4.  This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.

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