Standing at a podium in city council chambers on Friday afternoon, June 16, Mayor Tom Potter made an announcement that surprised no one: Police Chief Derrick Foxworth would be demoted, following an investigation into allegations that Foxworth misused city email by writing sexual notes to Angela Oswalt, a woman and coworker he had an affair with in 2000 and 2001. Oswalt also alleged that she was harassed about the relationship by her colleagues, and Foxworth did nothing to curb the harassment.
The city's investigation found that seven of Oswalt's eight allegations were not substantiated. For example, Foxworth sent the emails—which have been widely published—on his own time, from personal email accounts. The one allegation that was substantiated involved "unprofessional conduct."
When Mayor Potter demoted Foxworth, however, he laid part of the blame on the media, saying they "acted as both judge and jury before all the facts were in," tarnishing Foxworth's reputation and hurting his ability to "lead the organization effectively."
What Potter failed to recognize, however, is that Foxworth never denied sending sexually explicit emails to a subordinate. From the day the city released documents from Oswalt's attorney—documents which contained the explicit excerpts—it was apparent that Foxworth made a bad call in sending such juicy emails to someone in a subordinate position, regardless of whether or not the emails broke any city rules or police bureau regulations. The media broadcast the emails because they were legitimate news: A high-profile public official had documented a steamy affair with a colleague, and those emails were now the basis of a formal complaint.
Before Potter used the media as a scapegoat for his own decision, he should have taken a closer look at the city's own report. It echoed what the "media frenzy" of the past three months was all about: Foxworth's "decision to send sexually explicit emails to another member of the bureau constituted a serious lapse of judgment."