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Former Tarpon Springs police officer sues city for overtime

TARPON SPRINGS — A former Tarpon Springs police officer who resigned amid an internal affairs investigation earlier this year is suing the city for overtime pay he says he didn't receive while working as a K-9 officer.

In a federal lawsuit, Michael Kazouris contends that Tarpon Springs violated the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act when it did not pay him for the time he worked after 40 hours.

Kazouris, 36, "worked in excess of forty hours per week without overtime compensation because, in addition to his normal duties, he was responsible for caring for the K-9 police dog that he boarded at his private residence," according to the lawsuit filed in April.

Tarpon Springs denies Kazouris' assertions.

"There has been no violation of the law," said Erin Jackson, an attorney with Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez and Hearing, the law firm that's representing the city in the matter.

Kazouris, the leader of the police department's school resource officer team, resigned March 6 after being under scrutiny for several months over his involvement with a Tarpon Springs High School student.

"The frivolous allegations and one-sided investigation against me have made it impossible for me to return to this department," he wrote in his resignation letter to acting police Chief Robert Kochen.

Kazouris was put on administrative leave last November after the department received the complaint.

In February, he was cleared of criminal wrongdoing on an allegation that he had improper contact with the student, but remained the subject of an internal affairs investigation until his resignation.

Kazouris joined the police department in 2004. The school resources officer team that he led was named the unit of the year by the Florida Association of School Resource Officers in 2008.

The investigation determined that he started a relationship with a female student while she was still at Tarpon Springs High, a school where he worked.

The 16-page criminal investigation report revealed that Kazouris called or sent text messages to the student under his authority more than 5,300 times over the course of five months.

The investigation also found that Kazouris and the student had sex at Kazouris' home on at least three occasions after she turned 18 in May 2008.

Kazouris also was a K-9 officer with the police department from November 2006 until his resignation.

Kazouris' attorney, Matthew K. Fenton, said his client was doing work that benefited Tarpon Springs and should be paid.

"If they have knowledge that the work is being done, they have a legal requirement to pay for it," Fenton said. "It's not up to the employee to go and ask their employer to comply with the Fair Labor Act."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at (727) 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com

Former Tarpon Springs police officer sues city for overtime 06/11/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 11, 2009 8:32pm]
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