Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

No criminal charges after investigation of Port Richey Police Department

PORT RICHEY — The city’s police chief is claiming exoneration after a state investigation into allegations that his department shredded officer discipline records concluded with no criminal charges filed.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement in December turned over the results of its six-month investigation to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office. The agency told prosecutors it found no grounds for a criminal prosecution.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett wrote in a letter to FDLE that he agreed with the finding. It is the second time in three years FDLE has investigated department practices with similar findings.

In this latest case, Port Richey City Manager Vince Lupo asked the FDLE in June 2017 to investigate a television news report about problems with Port Richey police personnel records. FDLE reports show an officer admitted to shredding documents and that a transition between police chiefs prohibited a full accounting of what is missing.

FDLE reports show record handling became erratic during the transition between former chief Rob Lovering and Chief Gerard DeCanio. Lovering came in two years earlier amid another FDLE investigation that revealed officers were buying discounted vehicles at auction from the Port Richey impound lot.

No criminal charges were filed in that case, but Lovering disciplined several officers and the department began keeping disciplinary records at the police department, separate from files in the city’s Human Resources office. Lovering resigned in October 2016 amid a dispute with Port Richey’s mayor, Dale Massad, over budget cuts.

DeCanio changed the policy, so all records stayed in Human Resources, preventing FDLE from auditing police records "due to the procedural maintenance changes by the two chiefs," the report said.

FDLE concluded that "information is now missing," and believed some was shredded by Port Richey Officer Jeffrey Cox under the supervision of his former boss, Captain Eric Barcelo. Barcelo resigned from the department in October, telling the Tampa Bay Times at the time he left due to family concerns.

Cox told agents that Barcelo gave him a "few papers" and said Cox could discard them. Cox said the papers concerned "a recent disciplinary issue he was involved with." Another document held a screenshot of a swastika from a Facebook page, which Cox told agents was part of an internal investigation involving another officer — Erin McGuire.

Cox shredded the documents, FDLE reports said. Barcelo later chastised Cox for shredding the swastika document, but said he would not be reprimanded because it was a copy of an original in Human Resources, Cox told agents.

McGuire told agents that Cox called her after the shredding, saying "he did her a solid." McGuire did not approve and reported the shredding to her superior, the FDLE report said.

In a later meeting McGuire had with Barcelo, the captain referenced files from the Lovering administration and said "he was going to allow all of the officers who were disciplined in this file to shred their records," McGuire told agents.

McGuire later resigned.

In interviews with investigators, DeCanio denied knowledge of document shredding other than a document copy he shredded because an original existed in the Human Resources office.

The matter is now closed, with record keeping practices changed and no internal investigation needed, DeCanio told the Tampa Bay Times last month.

"For us, it’s over and done with," he said.

Comments
Memorials, crisis counselors at Lakewood, day after student dies in crash

Memorials, crisis counselors at Lakewood, day after student dies in crash

ST. PETERSBURG — Memorials are building and crisis counselors were at Lakewood High School on Wednesday morning, a day after a student was killed and two others seriously injured in a crash Tuesday afternoon.The fatal occurred just before 2 p.m. shor...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Who will the Bucs take with the No. 7 pick?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Who will the Bucs take with the No. 7 pick?

Rick Stroud answers your NFL draft questions in this mailbag segment, including who the Bucs might take with the seventh overall pick, which running backs they might be looking at, whether Taven Bryan could slip to them in the second r...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Pasco SRO under investigation after video shows takedown of student

Pasco SRO under investigation after video shows takedown of student

LAND O’LAKES — An investigation continues after a video surfaced on Tuesday that shows a Sunlake High School school resource officer wrestling a female student to the ground while taking her into custody, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Offic...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Competency hearing for Seminole Heights slaying suspect; Is TIA a dining destination?; Clearwater looks to relocate City Hall; ‘Most Interesting Man’ in Tampa

The Daystarter: Competency hearing for Seminole Heights slaying suspect; Is TIA a dining destination?; Clearwater looks to relocate City Hall; ‘Most Interesting Man’ in Tampa

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Today’s high temperature tops out about 80 degrees, according to 10Weather WTSP. Our next rain chance is Friday when a weak front moves through. And next week brings the heat. Expect ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Forecast: Clear skies, pleasant conditions take hold over Tampa Bay

Forecast: Clear skies, pleasant conditions take hold over Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — Now that a cold front — which spawned a weak tornado in Ruskin — has departed, it leaves behind pleasant conditions across Tampa Bay.Relatively cool temperatures, clearing skies and low humidity will take hold until Friday, according...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Competency hearing today for Seminole Heights slaying suspect

Competency hearing today for Seminole Heights slaying suspect

TAMPA — A judge could determine today whether the man accused in four Seminole Heights slayings is competent to stand trial.Attorneys for Howell Emanuel Donaldson III filed a formal request on Monday to ask that Circuit Judge Mark Wolfe appoint a psy...
Updated: 1 hour ago
ESPN’s Rece Davis on hosting College GameDay from the NFL draft

ESPN’s Rece Davis on hosting College GameDay from the NFL draft

When ESPN's Rece Davis heard about the idea for boosting the college football insight into the NFL draft, he didn't need any convincing."My immediate reaction was, this is a no-brainer," Davis said.Davis will spearhead the network's overdue look at t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

When Tampa International Airport debuted in 1971, each terminal had a newsstand and a snack bar, called something kicky like Snack Bar.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Carlton: The zoo is changing, but don’t worry. The meerkats are on it.

Carlton: The zoo is changing, but don’t worry. The meerkats are on it.

The other day I stopped to check on some progress. And got to see a meerkat, too. Progress in Tampa these days usually refers to the development of Vinikville — excuse me, Water Street Tampa — along the south edge of downtown. Or what w...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Updated: 2 hours ago