KENNETH CITY — Council member Troy Campbell wants to spend up to $12,000 to have an outside consultant evaluate the Police Department's training and readiness.
The idea comes a month after a sheriff's inquiry raised questions about the practices and management of the department. If the council approves the expenditure, the consultant's investigation would be one of three into department practices.
Campbell has asked Pinellas Park to look at the department's vehicles to make sure they are in good repair and that the equipment is up to date and working. He has also asked Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats to evaluate the department's personnel, training, procedures and other related issues. That review will begin soon, Campbell said.
"It's all about making the system bulletproof," Campbell said. It's about ensuring Kenneth City's officers and department meet the same standards as other police agencies across the state.
Although Campbell said he wants to make sure a thorough investigation is done, he is under a time constraint. Kenneth City police Chief Doug Pasley's contract is up for renewal at the end of this year. The council has to notify Pasley by early July if it does not wish to renew his contract for another three years.
A decision to let Pasley go would cost the town. Under Pasley's contract, he will receive six months' pay — about $30,900 — plus earned vacation and sick time if he is let go. That clause applies whether the council decides not to renew the contract or simply fires him during the term of the contract.
"The city owes the same amount of money. There's absolutely no difference." Campbell said. "The city's going to have to pay that bullet at some point" if Pasley is let go.
Pasley's management has long been a concern of Mayor Teresa Zemaitis, who tried last summer to persuade the council to fire him. When the council brushed aside her complaints of poor management and she continued to receive complaints, Zemaitis approached Coats in November or December to investigate the department.
Coats looked at computer data from Sept. 1 through March 20 and discovered numerous instances when on-duty Kenneth City officers were not within the town limits.
In some of those cases, they were at Bob Evans with the chief. In others, they called in that they were eating a meal. In others, they were out of town on police-related work, such as court time, serving warrants or contacting witnesses.
But many times officers had called in that they were available to immediately answer calls for help, but were not within the town limits. In some cases, they were as far away as an address north of Coachman Road in Clearwater or on the Howard Frankland Bridge.
Campbell said he understands that Zemaitis and the chief have a personality clash but they should "duke out personal problems." He's also not terribly concerned about breakfasts at Bob Evans and the like.
"The sheriff's report itself, I'm not really all up in a twist about," Campbell said. But, "there are some things in there (that cause concern). That report's the first thing to peel the onion back to look at other things."
The goal, he said, is to make sure the department is the best it can be. And that could include pumping more money into it. Currently, the department accounts for about 55 percent, or about $1.2 million, of the overall $2.2 million operating budget.
Reach Anne Lindberg at email@example.com or (727) 893-8450.