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Fired Port Richey officer accuses boss of illegally taping him

PORT RICHEY — On May 16, veteran patrolman Bill Sager had two root canals.

Still numb from anesthesia, he headed to City Hall to drop off paperwork regarding his medical leave for a herniated disc.

His day would only get worse.

After being called into his boss' office, Sager said, Mathias Brewi told him to "sit down and shut up." For 10 minutes, Sager said, Brewi accused him of trying to go behind his back during Brewi's one-year tenure as public safety director.

A month later, Sager discovered the confrontation had been taped without his knowledge. He has filed complaints with the Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as state law requires all parties to give permission for a recorded conversation unless the tape is needed for law enforcement purposes.

Brewi, who no longer works for the city, did not return a call Monday for comment. But authorities doubt they can make a case against him, since the recording no longer exists.

In a May 28 e-mail to City Manager Richard Reade, Brewi wrote that "there had been a recording with my personal recorder that, when it dropped, broke and was put out for the garbage," and "the Sager recording (was) lost."

• • •

The revelation of the surreptitious recording and the ensuing complaints comes less than two weeks after Sager was abruptly fired after 23 years on the force.

City officials accused Sager, 52, of sending a letter poking fun at office culture to city employees, with Reade's name at the bottom as if he had signed it.

City officials said the letter violated city policies. Sager said he had nothing to do with it, and on Thursday he will have a post-disciplinary hearing at City Hall to challenge his firing.

Sager said things soured between him and Brewi after Sager sent a memo to then-City Manager Jerry Calhoun about Brewi saying the n-word during a conversation last year.

"After I sent the memo (to Calhoun)," Sager said, "he didn't treat me the same."

Brewi gave his two-week's notice on May 16 — the same day he called Sager into his office for the confrontation. Sager later filed a public records request to find out what Reade, the new city manager, planned to do about Brewi's actions that day.

Among the documents Sager received was the e-mail that revealed Brewi had recorded the conversation.

In a May 28 e-mail to Reade, Brewi wrote he had spoken to "legal council" prior to meeting with Sager to confirm that Sager didn't need to be notified that the sit-down was being recorded.

"Officer Sager was told not to interrupt me or say anything prior to the recorder being activated, according to law, I did not need to inform him of the recording," Brewi wrote to Reade.

• • •

The Sheriff's Office does not plan to investigate Sager's complaint. Neither will the state attorney's office, whom Sager also consulted.

"Without a tape," sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said, "there's no evidence."

But Sager is still pursuing his case with FDLE. The agency did not return a call to the Times on Monday.

There are "certain lines you can't cross as a police officer," Sager said.

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at cspencer@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

>>Fast Facts

Fired officer's recent history

Bill Sager had a tumultuous 15 months before he was fired earlier this month from the Port Richey Police Department. Among the events:

April 17, 2007: During his interview for the public safety position, Mathias Brewi uses the n-word during a conversation with then-police Chief Bill Sager.

May 2007: Brewi is hired as public safety director. Sager takes a voluntary demotion and becomes a patrolman.

December 2007: Sager files a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about Brewi using the racial slur.

May 16: The same day he gives his two-week's notice, Brewi confronts Sager.

June 13: Through a public records request, Sager obtains an

e-mail indicating Brewi recorded their May 16 sit-down.

June 16: Sager files a complaint with the Sheriff's Office.

August: City Hall receives tongue-in-cheek memo suggesting new office policies; officials think Sager sent it.

Aug. 29: Sager files a complaint with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, saying Brewi illegally recorded their May 16 meeting.

Sept. 3: Sager is fired for that tongue-in-cheek memo, which he denies sending.

Fired Port Richey officer accuses boss of illegally taping him 09/15/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 18, 2008 7:47am]

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