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Complaint puts Zephyrhills police chief, sergeant on paid leave

ZEPHYRHILLS — Two members of the Zephyrhills Police Department, including Chief Russell Barnes, were placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday evening.

City Manger Steve Spina said Barnes and Sgt. Rob Perrault were named in a complaint from a citizen, but he would not elaborate on the allegations.

"We're starting an investigation into the complaint, and then we'll just go from there," Spina said.

In an e-mail to city staff Wednesday, Spina said the investigation should take no more than two weeks.

He did not disclose the nature of the investigation or complaint.

Perrault and Barnes did not want to comment on the allegations Wednesday. Both men were confident that the investigation would clear their names.

"I expect to be fully exonerated when it's all done," said Perrault.

Perrault joined the force in 1999 and is currently the department's spokesman.

Barnes has acted as police chief since 2003. Last year, he received a written reprimand over an irregularity in the purchase of several police vehicles.

Spina said Barnes had deviated from city purchasing policies when he bought three Crown Victorias from a dealership that was not awarded the bid on the Florida Sheriff's Association state contract.

Barnes told the Times previously, and his reprimand noted, that Orville Beckford Ford-Mercury in Milton (in the western Panhandle), matched the price of the state contract bids.

At the time, Spina said the violation was not Barnes' first — two months earlier, Barnes acknowledged buying $50,000 worth of Tasers before getting City Council approval.

In Barnes' absence, Captain David Shears will serve as acting chief of police

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (352) 521-6518.

Complaint puts Zephyrhills police chief, sergeant on paid leave 07/30/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 2, 2008 7:31am]
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