A West Palm Beach Police captain was suspended for a week and placed on department probation for six months Monday for allegedly letting his extra-marital relationship with a subordinate throw her unit into disarray.
He declined comment.
Twenty-five-year veteran Maale, who’s on the PD’s command staff, was accused of threatening a sergeant who questioned his alleged affair with a much younger police officer, at times while on-duty. Also, Maale may have retaliated against a lieutenant who supervised the young officer, identified in the paperwork as Cathy Cognetti.
The report shows that the alleged shenanigans lowered morale at Cognetti’s entertainment district unit (EDU), which is supposed to keep the peace on and around downtown West Palm Beach’s nightlife areas.
“Morale declined,” the report reads, “as Capt. Maale began to intervene in the supervision of the unit.”
An internal email from Patrol Sgt. David Howard kicked off the internal affairs investigation into Maale in May. The email alleged that Cognetti was getting preferential treatment in scheduling and assignments because of her “special” relationship with the captain.
Rumors about the two spread through the department after a fellow cop driving through Cognetti’s Jupiter neighborhood spotted Maale leaving her house one morning.
Another fellow officer saw the two of them chatting away outside a bank where Cognetti worked off-duty security, assuming they were a couple. And several cops reported hearing numerous phone calls between Maale and Cognetti while Cognetti was on-duty.
Maale, who was married for the third time in 2008, and Cognetti both denied having a fling when informally confronted by superiors, including ex-Chief Delsa Bush. They continued denying it during the investigation.
In explaining why he was spotted at Cognetti’s house, Maale told I.A. sleuths he was just picking up a uniform belt that Cognetti had bought for him. And in explaining hundreds of phone calls between her and Maale, Cognetti told investigators she was having a “a personal, friendly relationship.” She is single.
Although the police department has no policy against cops sharing an intimate relationship and deep friendship, it does have a policy against such relations interfering with work.
Cognetti allegedly started going over the heads of her direct supervisors and directly to Maale when she needed her schedule tweaked to attend holistic medicine school. Maale’s involvement with the unit allegedly increased to the point that supervisors said they couldn’t do their jobs.
Officials requested a two-week suspension but reduced it to one week after meeting with Maale for his rebuttal. In it, Maale wrote: “Officers spread false and malicious rumors about a captain, (low morale) became the captain’s fault, not the people who are 100 percent wrong.”