• Mascotte police sergeant accuses chief of hiding microphones in patrol cars


    LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - There are only 12 officers on Mascotte's police force and nearly half that number are embroiled in a fight with Police Chief Rolando Banasco.

    According to the city website, there are 12 sworn officers and two civilian employees with the department, and Channel 9 has learned several federal lawsuits have been filed that accuse Banasco of discrimination, because the officers are white.

    Attorneys gave Channel 9 documents showing former officers Scott Thompson, Gregg Woodworth and Richard Dillon  are filing suit against the department. And a new complaint filed by Sgt. David Grice with the city accuses the chief of spying on officers.

    Grice said Banasco wanted to know what the officers were talking about in their cruisers.

    Mascotte Mayor Tony Rosado said he is going to call for an investigation.

    "There is definitely concern here. The city manager had an independent investigation, but I am asking for further investigation now that these new allegations have come to light," said Rosado.

    Channel 9's Tim Barber spoke with Banasco on Friday.

    "So, there is no bugging going on here?" Barber asked Banasco.

    "Absolutely not," said Banasco.

    "There is no reverse discrimination going on here?" Barber asked.

    "Absolutely not," said Banasco.

    Grice has hired an attorney, but WFTV analyst Bill Sheaffer said that might not be the most prudent approach in this instance.

    "If you want a meaningful investigation you don't hire a lawyer, you reach out to the state," said Sheaffer.

    Banasco said his department is clean.

    "When you have half your police force accusing you of misconduct -- is there something going on here?" Barber asked Banasco.

    "No, sir, no there is not. But I am the first Hispanic in central Florida as a police chief, so you do the math," said Banasco.

    City manager Jim Gleason told Channel 9 that the city has not been served in either suit and that they'll defend their position.  Gleason went on to say Grice's complaint is being investigated by an independent, unbiased  and uninvolved professional to ensure due process.

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    Mascotte police sergeant accuses chief of hiding microphones in patrol cars