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Fired Port Richey officer reinstated

PORT RICHEY — Three weeks ago, city officials accused veteran police Officer Bill Sager of sending a gag memo to city employees. They fired him on the spot.

Now, they've decided they were too hasty.

City Attorney Michael Brannigan sent Sager a letter Monday putting him back on the job, but on paid leave while Chief David Brown investigates Sager's role in the controversy.

Depending on the outcome of that investigation, Sager could still face some kind of discipline.

"I wanted my job back, but now I don't know what's going to happen," said Sager, 52. "I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop."

Sager has steadfastly denied sending the memo, which jokingly suggests new office policies such as "Chubby people get 5 minutes for lunch, because that's all the time needed to drink a Slim Fast."

At the bottom of the memo was the name of City Manager Richard Reade, as if he had signed it.

The return address on the mailing was the police union's post office box. Sager applied for that box in May, but he said all the officers have access to it, so whoever sent the memo could have listed any return address.

In the letter terminating him three weeks ago, Brannigan said Sager violated at least two city policies. But Sager protested he was never given a chance to give his side of the story.

So a personnel hearing was held Sept. 18 at City Hall. Sager and his union representative, Jim Diamond, pleaded their case to Reade and Brannigan.

"The argument we made is that he didn't do what they alleged he did," Diamond said Monday. "He shouldn't have been terminated."

On Friday, an administrative assistant called Sager and told him to pick up his check at City Hall, $2,321 in back pay since his termination. Sager said he was also given his ID card and badge, without any explanation.

An explanation came Monday from a new letter from Brannigan, returning Sager to the force while the matter is investigated. Sager, who was injured last year during a scuffle with a suspect, remains on medical leave.

In a separate matter, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement asked the city to investigate a complaint Sager made about his ex- boss.

Sager had complained that Mathias Brewi, then the city's public safety director, had taped a conversation in May without Sager's knowledge. In an e-mail to Reade, Brewi wrote that he lost the recording.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement sent a Sept. 19 letter to Reade, asking for the city to report its findings within 45 days.

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

Fired Port Richey officer reinstated 09/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 2, 2008 2:20pm]
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