INSET BELOW: Manalapan Officer David Hul

By Dan Moffett
    
    Town officials have moved to fire a three-year veteran of the police department over the officer’s handling of a February incident involving employees at Manalapan Pizza.
 7960511671?profile=original   The town has suspended Officer David Hul without pay and begun the process of seeking his dismissal from the department. It is the second time in six months that Hul has been the subject of an internal affairs investigation.
    In November, Hul charged Police Chief Carmen Mattox with making racially disparaging remarks after a Haitian student lost his ID card in the La Coquille Villas garage.
    Mattox denied the allegation, and an outside review by West Palm Beach police investigators found no evidence to support Hul’s claim.
    The incident at Manalapan Pizza occurred after 9 p.m. Feb. 13, according to an internal affairs report by Manalapan police Lt. Christopher Fahey. Hul was eating at the restaurant while on duty, the report says, when a heated, profanity-filled argument broke out among three employees.
    One of the employees, Jennifer Nuccilli, a recently hired waitress, said she felt threatened by the other employees, Monica Garcia and Louis Younglove, and asked Hul for assistance. Nuccilli told police Hul was dismissive of her request, did not help her and did not file a report. Nuccilli filed a complaint against him to the Manalapan Police Department.
    According to the internal review, Nuccilli accused Hul of siding with the two employees because they often had given him free food from the restaurant, a violation of department policy. Fahey says Hul “freely admitted in his IA interview” that he took free food, even on the night of the disturbance.
    Another officer questioned in the case, Stephan Jacknowitz, said he never received free food from the restaurant but did receive discounts.
    Hul told the investigator he did not take notes or file a report because he believed the incident was a civil matter, not criminal. Hul said he separated the employees and requested that the restaurant owner be called in to deal with the situation.
    “At no time did I hear threats made or any actions that would be considered intimidating or aggressive,” Hul said.
    In a memo informing Hul of his suspension, Mattox compared the restaurant incident with the discrimination allegations from last year, saying the officer did not file timely reports in both cases.
    Mattox also charged Hul with several other policy violations during the restaurant incident, including failing to report his whereabouts to the dispatcher.
    The chief cited a May 2013 accident in which Hul damaged an ATV as another reason for his dismissal. Shortly after he was hired in 2011, the town honored Hul with a life-saving commendation after he used a rope to rescue two struggling snorkelers from the Boynton Inlet.

    The Manalapan department has had its own issues with investigations during the last year. After a racial profiling complaint by town resident Kersen De Jong, the U.S. Justice Department in March 2013 opened an investigation into police conduct.
    De Jong, a frequent speaker at town commission meetings, has accused the department of discriminating against minorities and trying to keep visitors out of the town. De Jong has called for Mattox’s firing and believes the department’s plans to fire Hul are in retaliation for his accusations of racial discrimination against the chief last November, an assertion Mattox and town officials deny.
    “There is no retribution,” said Town Manager Linda Stumpf. “There is no retaliation.”
    Hul has retained legal counsel through the Police Benevolent Association and is contesting the case.
    In other business:
    • The commission agreed with Mayor David Cheifetz’s proposal to create an ad hoc committee to oversee construction of the Audubon bridge project. Cheifetz appointed Commissioner Peter Isaac to head the panel of residents.
    “The committee will provide oversight but no decision-making,” the mayor said. “I’m in favor of focusing issues with a commissioner and bringing members of the community in to involve them in the process.”
    • Commissioners unanimously agreed to allow more time for beach cleaning. Dave Rowland, owner of The Beach Keeper, a Lake Worth maintenance firm, told commissioners it was impossible to remove trash and seaweed from the town’s beaches because of the town’s restrictions on work after 9:30 a.m.
    Rowland’s company has contracts with 13 properties, including the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa. Commissioners decided to allow cleanup work from Monday to Saturday, sunrise to 11:30 a.m.
    • At the request of La Coquille Club Villas, the commission approved six code variances and a waiver to accommodate plans for a facelift of the development’s entrance. The exceptions concern wall, gate and tree requirements and go next to the Architectural Commission meeting on June 11.

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