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Chief accused of authorizing records misus

Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials said Tuesday that they are investigating allegations that Dunnellon police Chief E.

W. McCracken allowed an officer to improperly use the department's crime research computer.

On May 11, McCracken reportedly gave part-time officer Anthony Johnson permission to have Dunnellon police officials check the criminal history of his former girlfriend, who lives in Georgia.

Johnson wrote in a department memo that he wanted to check the criminal history of the mother of his daughter because he believed that she was involved in drug-related activity in Georgia.

"The chief (McCracken) authorized a terminal operator to make an inquiry into the Georgia Crime Information Center for reasons that were not related to criminal justice purposes," said Ritchie Grant of the FDLE in Tallahassee. "He has violated his user contract with FDLE."

The Florida Crime Information Center is managed by FDLE. All police agencies that use the system must agree to use it only for official law enforcement purposes, Grant said.

McCracken could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but in a letter to Grant dated June 4, McCracken said that the computer is used only for law enforcement purposes and that the incident May 11 had been investigated by Dunnellon police Lt. Leo Mielczarczyk.

On June 15, Grant wrote to McCracken requesting a copy of the internal investigation report that relates to this case. Grant said he has not gotten a response from McCracken.

"I need to get a response from him (McCracken) before we take a plan of action," Grant said. "But if we don't get a response soon, I'll take this matter up with the division director, who has already been made aware of this case."

According to department records, Dunnellon officer Christopher Evan said he was present when McCracken gave Johnson permission to have a criminal history check done on the woman.

Dispatcher Michael Jacques said that while he was doing the history check, he heard Johnson tell someone in the office that the woman was "either his ex-wife or ex-girlfriend and mother of his daughter."

Grant said that misusing the criminal information center is normally not considered a crime, but it is considered a violation of the computer-use contract.

"We could take sanctions against him until the matter is cleared up or we could block the department from retrieving criminal history information," Grant said. "That has never been done, though, because it jeopardizes other law enforcement staff. We try to clear the matter up. We try to get the bad apple out of the way."

This incident is the latest in a series of allegations against the embattled Dunnellon police chief in recent weeks.

McCracken recently admitted that he knowingly submitted a job referral containing incorrect information to Marion County sheriff's officials and lied to FDLE officials about the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of former Dunnellon reserve officer Darren Duane Barbree.

It also was discovered recently that McCracken voided 19 traffic tickets during his nine years as chief of the Dunnellon Police Department. Current and former Dunnellon officers have said that McCracken asked them to void traffic tickets for his friends and prominent Dunnellon residents.

Concern about the mounting allegations and declining morale within the department has led the Town Council to hire a private investigator from Orlando to examine policies and practices in the Police Department.