NEW PORT RICHEY
Principals to shift schools on Monday
Monday is high school principal shift day for Pasco County schools. Land O'Lakes High gets a new leader; Mitchell High does too. Brand-new Anclote High officially gets its principal as well.
And then there's River Ridge High. Jim Michaels is headed to Mitchell, but who's his replacement? Superintendent Heather Fiorentino has a day of interviews planned for Friday, and expects to name the new River Ridge High principal shortly afterward.
The candidates are Wiregrass Ranch assistant principal Maria Swanson, Mitchell assistant principal Carin Nettles, Land O'Lakes assistant principal Richard Batchelor, Sunlake assistant principal Garry Walthall, and Ridgewood assistant principal Shawn Hohenthaner.
Drug test brings leave, grievance
A 16-year veteran firefighter and emergency medical tech who tested positive for drug use last month has filed a grievance with the city protesting the decision to place him on administrative leave.
On Feb. 25, when a random drug test was to be administered to employees, Lt. Shawn Baptist told city officials that he might test positive, prompting him to be placed on paid administrative leave, said Chief Keith Williams.
The results of the test came back on March 3, confirming that Baptist, who also runs the local firefighters union, had used drugs. (Williams would not say what the specific drug was.)
Baptist was placed on unpaid leave on March 3, and used his sick days and vacation time until they ran out March 13, Williams said. Baptist, who is paid $45,800 per year, could face termination or be required to participate in a treatment program before returning to work, city officials said.
A disciplinary hearing will be held next week.
Boyfriend accused of beating woman
A deputy saw a red mark on a young woman's face and asked how she got it.
"I don't know," she said, according to a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report. She didn't want the deputy to photograph her injury and she didn't want to make a statement.
It was Tuesday evening along State Road 52 in Hudson. A cook at Domino's Pizza heard from a customer that a man was beating a woman in the parking lot, according to the sheriff's report.
The cook walked outside, he later told deputies, and the man backed off, hopped on his bicycle and fled. The woman followed. The cook called 911.
A deputy found the couple, who live together in New Port Richey. Jessica Molden, 26, said the fight was verbal, not physical.
Her boyfriend of a year and a half — Thomas Martinez, 22 — told the deputy that he and Molden rode their bikes home from a bar and argued. According to the report, Martinez said he hit Molden in the face but didn't know what he hit her with.
"He said that during the argument he threw a beer can at her along with her purse," the report states. "Tom said it could have been any of those items or maybe his fist, he was unsure."
Martinez was arrested on a charge of domestic battery and is being held without bail at the Land O'Lakes jail.
Dairy Queen can't shake wanderer
A stranger went behind a Dairy Queen counter late Tuesday and wandered over to the drive-through window. Authorities say James Harner, a 44-year-old laborer from Land O'Lakes, refused to leave.
Dairy Queen staffers told him to leave the State Road 54 restaurant several times. Harner, according to a report from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, went outside and approached cars in the drive-through.
When a deputy showed up, Harner said he had methadone, a synthetic narcotic used to treat opioid addiction, in his pocket. The deputy searched him and found other drugs: Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication, and Dilaudid, a medicine for pain, according to the report. Harner said he had prescriptions for all of the medications but couldn't produce any of them, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Harner was arrested. On his way to the Land O'Lakes jail, the report said, he posed a question:
Would the deputy let him go in exchange for doing work at the deputy's house?
The answer was no.
Harner is charged with disorderly conduct, trespassing after a warning and three counts of possessing a controlled substance without a prescription. He is being held without bail.