KENNETH CITY — After the smoke cleared from a nasty verbal brawl among Town Council members, police Chief Doug Pasley was left standing with his job for another three years.
The vote? There was none.
Council members decided last week to rely on a clause in Pasley's contract that provided for a three-year renewal if they did nothing.
Pasley's future had been in doubt since at least April, when a Pinellas County sheriff's investigation called his management into question. Sheriff Jim Coats had been called in by Mayor Teresa Zemaitis to look into residents' complaints about the Police Department.
Troy Campbell, the council member in charge of the department, followed that with a second sheriff's inspection of the agency.
Those reports raised concerns about officer safety and lack of follow-through on investigations as well as misuse of city property by at least one officer, who was looking at bodybuilding and dating sites on his department laptop while on duty. Sheriff's investigators also said guns and keys to police cars were unsecured and could be easily accessed because of a large hole in the wall and because the door to the room was open and not locked.
Council member Wanda Dudley said she saw those two reports as raw data that needed to be followed by an internal investigation. Dudley said she undertook the task and interviewed Pasley, police officers and others about the allegations.
While Dudley seemed to find much that was true, she dismissed other claims in the reports. When it came to officer safety, she said, all 12 of the department's officers told her they felt safe.
Dudley said she found it impossible to believe that a suspect could reach the car keys through a hole in the wall in the room where they were kept.
"You cannot escape through the hole in the door," Dudley said. "I could not fit through the hole."
Even if someone grabbed the keys, she said, it would be too complicated for them to figure out which key fit which car.
Dudley charged Campbell with trying to work around the chief and sought his guarantee that he would no longer do so.
"The department head should be working with the chief and not around the chief," she said.
Dudley's remarks were greeted by enthusiastic applause from the standing-room-only crowd.
Campbell demanded that she explain how he worked around the chief.
"I can't," she said.
Council member Joanne DeSimone attacked Zemaitis and Campbell. Of Campbell, she said, "I don't have faith in you as a department head."
Campbell responded, "I think it's very dangerous to go through and debunk" some of the concerns.
"Do I think there are some serious issues that need to be taken care of? Yes," Campbell said. He said he plans to fix those issues. But, he said, some other council members want to ignore the problems in favor of personal attacks against each other.
"You want to make it personal, holler at me, go ahead," Campbell said.
Reach Anne Lindberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.