KENNETH CITY — Mike Rossi, who served as police chief for about 17 months, has resigned.
The resignation is effective today. His decision came after talks with Town Manager Matt Campbell and negotiations over an exit package. Rossi, who had no contract, will leave with one month's pay. He'll also receive two weeks' unused vacation and part of a sick day. The total: $7,521.
Sgt. Kevin Matson, a 25-year veteran of the department, will serve as interim chief.
Campbell announced Rossi's departure early Thursday, saying, "I've had discussions with the chief, and the chief is resigning from the town effective Friday. … I basically went to him after consulting with our town attorney and consulting with a labor attorney. I felt that we could come to a mutual agreement and come to a parting of the ways."
Rossi, 49, could not be reached for comment.
Rossi, who was earning $64,770 a year, began working for Kenneth City in October 2012. Like many who have headed up the Police Department, his tenure was controversial. Council members and residents argued about his leadership on issues that ranged from the number of bullets the department needed to whether the town needed a canine unit. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was drawn into the center of some arguments.
Mayor Teresa Zemaitis, who declined to comment on the departure, was scathing in her criticism. She recommended in a December job evaluation that Rossi be put on six months' probation for doing such a poor job.
Zemaitis' evaluation was written in response to a stellar review given by council member Joanne DeSimone, who, at the time, oversaw the Police Department. DeSimone had given him an almost perfect score and recommended he be given a raise. DeSimone could not be reached for comment.
Things seemed to calm down after Campbell came on board in March. Voters last year chose to change Kenneth City's style of government to a council-manager format in which a professional runs the town's day-to-day activities while the council sets policy. Under the old format, council members oversaw the daily activities of individual departments.
Campbell at first praised Rossi. But by earlier this month, he had twice orally reprimanded the chief. Once, Rossi failed to notify Campbell that a council member had spent more than an hour in the Police Department. The second time, Rossi had taken home to Pasco County a new SUV that was purchased for patrolling.
Campbell said there was nothing in particular that prompted the resignation discussion.
"I felt like it was time for a parting of the ways," he said. "He's served the town with integrity," but Rossi is "not part of the master plan" for Kenneth City's future.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes on Twitter.