Committee recommends overturning police officer's suspension

Officer Ron Avallone gives his statement at a grievance hearing last month.
Officer Ron Avallone gives his statement at a grievance hearing last month.

FOLLY BEACH, SC (WCSC) - A committee investigating the suspension of a Folly Beach police officer is recommending the suspension of Officer Ron Avallone be overturned.

Avallone was accused of mishandling a call by failing to arrest a suspect police say sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl on the beach.

The grievance committee released their decision on Wednesday in a three-page report.

"My recommendation to overturn is based solely on what I perceived to be weaknesses in the evidence presented against him and the lack of any prior records of poor/incomplete work contained in PSO Avallone's personnel file," Committee member Aaron Pope wrote in his findings.

"After several weeks of thorough study of all statements, audio tapes, witness affidavits, copies of interviews and listening to all parties involved in the hearing, I have come to the conclusion the process of the said suspension was flawed and biased," wrote Committee member Mary Cunningham.

Avallone said on Wednesday that he is back at work but offered no comment on the grievance findings.

The committee's decision to overturn Avallone's suspension will be taken up by the full city council on Oct. 9.

Officials say the council's decision will be final.

Avallone was given a 5-day suspension by Public Safety Department Chief Dennis Brown for "incompetence and neglect" related to an incident on June 23.

Brown says Avallone failed to immediately arrest a man, 67-year-old Fred Rogers, who is accused of fondling a 13-year-old girl at the beach.  One hour later, Rogers allegedly assaulted a woman at his apartment complex on Folly Road.

Avallone fought the suspension at a grievance hearing last month at Folly Beach City Hall. He says on the day in question, he responded to a call of a man creating a disturbance on the beach by sitting in another person's chair and putting sand on a girl.

Avallone says after speaking with a beach manager, he then escorted Rogers from the beach and left the scene to attend to another call.

Avallone says two additional officers he had called to the scene were the first to hear details of an alleged sexual assault.

"I was never told or flagged down by anyone else," he said.  "I couldn't have known about the second complaint -- I wasn't near."

Public Safety Chief Dennis Brown also spoke before the committee last month, saying that as the first officer on scene, Avallone had a duty to understand the details behind the original complaint.

"Had the suspect remained on-scene, the suspect would have been detained and the second sexual assault wouldn't have occurred," he said.

Fred Rogers is charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor, and assault, in connection to the two separate incidents.

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