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Kenneth City official: I'll work to improve Police Department, even if Chief Doug Pasley stays

KENNETH CITY — The Town Council member in charge of the Police Department still believes that Chief Doug Pasley needs to go, but he'll try to fix the department's problems even if the chief stays.

It's likely the chief will stay, council member Troy Campbell said Friday. Despite recent allegations of poor management in the department, three of the five council members have supported Pasley.

"I don't think the council is going to change their vision on what they're choosing to do" by Wednesday, when it is scheduled to vote on whether to renew Pasley's contract for another three years, Campbell said.

"I felt that the chief should have been held responsible, but the rest of the council does not," Campbell said. "If the council says he needs to stay … that's what we do."

Pasley, 68, first came under fire last July, when Mayor Teresa Zemaitis sought to dismiss him during budget hearings. Zemaitis at first said the firing would save the town money, but added that she had received complaints about the chief's performance. The other four council members refused to listen to her complaints and criticized Zemaitis for overstepping her boundaries.

Pasley blamed the complaints on disgruntled employees who went to the mayor "every time I do something wrong."

The situation seemed to calm down until April, when a sheriff's investigation ordered by Zemaitis found numerous instances of when Kenneth City officers said they were available for emergency calls but were outside town. One officer seldom left the department, and another used his police computer while on duty to troll dating and bodybuilding websites.

Most of the council and many residents criticized Zemaitis for calling in the sheriff. But Campbell, who was elected in March, asked Sheriff Jim Coats to look more deeply into the department.

That investigation found numerous shortcomings including a lack of training, low morale, failure to notify officers of potentially dangerous suspects who might be in the area, and failure to follow up on unsolved cases.

Tapes from the sheriff's 911 system showed at least two occasions when Kenneth City officers failed to answer radio calls. A state hearing officer overruled Pasley's decision to fire Officer Venus Michaud Chase-Rhonomus. The hearing officer said the allegations that Chase-Rhonomus had told untruths, changed a job evaluation and was insubordinate were false. He ordered the town to pay her unemployment benefits. The town has appealed, and Chase-Rhonomus has filed claims of discrimination and retaliation with the state and federal Equal Employment Opportunity commissions.

Campbell said he thinks the situation is serious enough to fire Pasley, but a majority of the council refused to support him when he moved to fire Pasley last month.

"It amazes me that they won't talk about it," he said. "I'm just surprised the council doesn't rally together to say, 'Hey, let's fix this.' "

Even more perplexing, he said, was the council's reluctance to put Pasley's contract on the agenda. The document will renew automatically unless the council votes otherwise. Town attorney John Elias has said a formal vote is needed, however.

Two council members — Ron Sneed and Joanne DeSimone — argued against putting the item on Wednesday's agenda. It doesn't make sense, Campbell said, that other council members refuse to fire the chief but "also don't want to take the affirmative action and say (they) want to keep him."

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

.Fast facts

If you go

The Kenneth City Town Council will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Community Hall, 4600 58th St. N. One item on the agenda is the renewal of police Chief Doug Pasley's contract.

Kenneth City official: I'll work to improve Police Department, even if Chief Doug Pasley stays 07/09/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 8, 2011 4:43pm]
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