By Dan Moffett
The town of South Palm Beach is facing a lawsuit stemming from the forced resignation of a police officer in August.
Alicia and Michael Baum have filed a suit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court naming the town and former Officer Jose M. Fernandez as defendants and claiming damages in excess of $30,000 because of what the suit calls his harassment activities last summer.
The town declined to comment on the suit.
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s investigators booked Fernandez at the county jail on Aug. 28 and charged him with two misdemeanors — stalking Alicia Baum and unlawfully installing a GPS tracking device on her car.
Fernandez resigned from the department two days later. In October, the Sheriff’s Office took over the department and policing in the town.
Michael Baum told PBSO investigators in July that Fernandez, 51, had carried on a yearlong affair with his wife that she wanted to end. Baum said he found a GPS device attached to the bottom of his Toyota SUV, and investigators then traced the tracker’s registration to Fernandez.
Alicia Baum told deputies she was “constantly looking over her shoulder” because Fernandez was following her and, despite her requests, refused to end their relationship. She accused Fernandez of following her while she jogged on Ocean Boulevard and while she shopped outside the town.
Alicia Baum said she did not fear physical harm from Fernandez but felt harassed.
Fernandez admitted to investigators, according to the PBSO report, that he bought the device and placed it on the car a few days before Michael Baum discovered it on July 30. But Fernandez said he did so because he feared retribution from Baum.
The former officer denied he was stalking the woman. He posted a $500 bond and left the jail shortly after his booking. No trial date has been set.
The Baums’ suit, filed by Palm Beach Gardens attorney Stuart Kaplan, accuses Fernandez of a “pervasive pattern of constant harassment” and violation of their constitutional rights. The suit accuses the town of negligence and “failing to supervise” Fernandez. The complaint also alleges the town’s police had pressured the Baums to sign a nonprosecution agreement.