Courtesy of the Daytona Beach News-Journal
Does Volusia County’s Beach Patrol condone a “culture of sexual abuse and depravity” where underage lifeguards are expected to have sex with officers as a “rite of passage”?
The News-Journal reviewed thousands of pages of documents and found scant evidence to support the strongest claims in a civil suit filed against Volusia County in federal court.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean the case is a loser, legal experts said.
After reading the 40-page complaint, Stetson law professor Charles Rose said the case’s fate hinges on whether attorneys can really prove a “culture” that county management knew about — or should have known about — and not just the misdeeds of a few officers.
“Usually, it’s one or two bad apples, and the fight comes down to whether or not the county knew about it,” Rose said. “Then you have to prove actual knowledge, and that isn’t going to be easy.”
University of Florida Law Professor Sharon Rush agreed that establishing that the county condoned or ignored sex between adults and minors will be difficult, especially if Tameris is the only culprit.
“Just because an employee messes up, that doesn’t put the county or his supervisors on the line,” Rush said.
Drury’s attorneys Brett Hartley and Gary Edinger claim to have more evidence from a private investigator they hired. Among testimony given to investigators, they can find several underage lifeguards who say Tameris made advances on them, as well as some peers and supervisors who said it was common knowledge Tameris liked “younger” women.
That evidence, and the county’s desire to avoid a potentially embarrassing trial, will both play into whether the case is settled, thrown out or goes to trial, legal experts said.
“If you know he has a tendency to try to have sex with women who are underage, you at least have a duty to identify that issue, reduce it to writing, put him through counseling and, if none of that works, fire him,” Rose said. “You do have a job to systemically ensure that employees are following the law.”
If the lawyers can show lifeguards targeted younger women and the county knew — or should have known — the Drury lawsuit could be the first in a string against the county. Hartley has notified the county he intends to sue on behalf of Danielle Smith, another former lifeguard who alleges she had sex while underage with an adult lifeguard.
“If the first one goes bad for the county, the lawsuits will come out of the woodwork,” Rose said