Kenneth City police Chief Doug Pasley submits resignation, now wants to take it back

KENNETH CITY — Police Chief Doug Pasley, who has been under fire for allegations of poor management, submitted a letter of resignation but now says he has changed his mind and wants to stay.

"After careful consideration, I propose to tender my resignation with the intention of early retirement," Pasley wrote in the four-paragraph document dated June 8. "Therefore, I am asking to terminate my current contract as police chief with the town of Kenneth City."

Pasley, 68, set out the terms of his leaving: six months' pay (about $30,900), 180 days of paid medical coverage, payment for sick and accrued vacation time, and vested pension benefits. His last day would be five working days after the Town Council approves the agreement.

Pasley added that there were no hard feelings.

"I have a deep sense of gratitude for this opportunity I have had to serve as this town's police chief," he wrote. "The tremendous support I consistently received from both the community and my co-workers have contributed to many productive and prosperous years here."

Pasley later tried to withdraw the resignation, but town attorney John Elias said he could not do so. Troy Campbell, the council member who oversees the Police Department, called a special meeting for tonight to vote on the issue.

Pasley said Tuesday that he did not want to get into "personal" issues about why he submitted the resignation. But he's now sure he wants to renew his contract for another three years.

"I definitely want to rescind (my resignation). We're going to go with whatever the Lord provides," Pasley said. "I want to renew my contract. The reason I want to do that is I'm convinced I'm the best chief of police they've ever had here. I have a heart for the city. I have a heart for the officers first of all."

Pasley has been chief since late 2007. His seesawing over his future comes at a tense time for the Police Department.

The sheriff has completed a review of all aspects of the department, from morale to training to equipment. The report cites shoddy working conditions, outdated equipment, lack of training and complaints of weak leadership by Pasley and department supervisors.

Tapes from the Sheriff's Office emergency dispatch center show at least two instances in which Kenneth City officers failed to respond to radio calls for as long as five minutes.

One of the tapes records a radio call that began about 7:41 a.m. on May 17, a Tuesday. It opens with the dispatcher asking for a response from Sgt. Kevin Matson or Officer Peter Cziesla, who were on duty that morning. The call was for an officer to meet with a victim of fraud.

Neither Matson nor Cziesla answers, and the dispatcher asks for any Kenneth City police officer to respond. About a minute goes by with no response from Kenneth City, and a sheriff's deputy cuts in and offers to go on the call because he's "right around the corner." The dispatcher says it's not an emergency so there's no need to go. After that, there is silence while the dispatcher waits for a Kenneth City officer to reply. At 3 minutes and 47 seconds into the call, the dispatcher tries again:

After 4 minutes and 20 seconds with no response, another dispatcher can be heard dialing a phone, apparently the main land line to the Kenneth City Police Department. The call is routed to the Sheriff's Office, which is routine for Kenneth City on nights and weekends. A second dial tone and dialing is heard. A phone rings three times before it's picked up and this conversation is heard:

"Kenneth City police, Officer Cziesla."

"Hey, this is (the sheriff), radio has been trying to call you guys."

"Oh."

"Yeah, he's called many times. They've got a call for you. He's been trying to get you on the radio."

"Okay, thanks."

Total time from the first call until the phone conversation ends: 5 minutes and 18 seconds.

The call is not the first to go unanswered by Kenneth City officers. A sheriff's report released earlier this year indicated that dispatch complained occasionally that Kenneth City officers did not respond to calls for service. It's also not the last. On June 7, the sheriff's dispatch sent out a radio message to make sure Kenneth City Officer Michael Vieno was okay. Vieno didn't answer but after a minute or so, fellow Officer Brian Fey told dispatch: "I just spoke to him on the telephone. He is 10-4." 10-4 means "okay" in police radio speak.

Pasley said he was unaware of the unanswered calls until a reporter asked him about them. Pasley said he had no explanation until he investigates the calls.

The officers involved did not return a message left with Campbell.

Other police agencies say such lapses are serious.

"They're supposed to answer the radio," said Debbie Carter, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. "There's no way they can avoid them or not answer them."

If a deputy simply ignored a call, Carter said, that would be grounds for discipline.

Eric Davis, spokesman for Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, said that failure to respond is not simply a matter of doing one's job but is also a matter of officer safety.

"You're supposed to respond immediately when you're called," Davis said. Dispatch may try several times and ways to contact a deputy, but "you're expected to answer within seconds." If dispatch gets no response, "they will send another deputy to your last known location."

Pasley's woes began in April with the release of an investigation by Sheriff Jim Coats that found numerous instances in which on-duty Kenneth City officers left town for lengthy periods. One went as far away as his Clearwater home. Others did not have their GPS systems turned on while on duty. And at least one on-duty officer used his town laptop to troll dating, bodybuilding and other Internet sites.

Since then, Pasley has conceded to council members during a public meeting that he has failed to update the department's standard operating procedures and emergency operations manuals during his three years as chief. Pasley told council members he was willing to do so, but his officers were not. Pasley asked for another year on the job to get the changes done.

More recently, a state hearing officer ruled that Pasley had no reason to fire a Kenneth City police officer and ordered that she be paid unemployment compensation. The officer called the town's case against Venus Michaud Chase-Rhonomus "vague" and "inconclusive."

Anne Lindberg can be reached at (727) 893-8450 or alindberg@tampabay.com.

If you go

The Kenneth City Town Council is scheduled to hold a special meeting at 7:30 tonight in the Community Hall, 4600 58th St. N. Among the items on the agenda are discussion of police Chief Doug Pasley's resignation, the chief's employment contract and the results of a sheriff's review of the Police Department. The meeting is open to the public.

Kenneth City police Chief Doug Pasley submits resignation, now wants to take it back 06/14/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 6:06pm]

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