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Kenneth City police chief wants more time to fix department's problems

KENNETH CITY — Police Chief Doug Pasley says his department has problems and he wants another year to fix them.

Pasley, who has been Kenneth City's police chief since December 2007, came under fire this year when an investigation by the Pinellas County Sheriff raised allegations of sloppy practices and poor management. The sheriff is now conducting a more in-depth review of the department, its standard operating procedures, morale, equipment and training.

The review is being conducted quickly because the Town Council must notify Pasley by early July whether it intends to keep him. If the council fails to do so, Pasley's contract will automatically renew for three years.

But at a council workshop last week, Pasley offered a compromise. The chief said he would forgo the automatic three-year renewal for a one-year term. At the end of that time, the council would review his performance. His proposal came after he conceded that the department's standard operating procedures "are being updated, not as quickly as I'd like." Likewise, Pasley said, the emergency management manual is "not where I want it."

That could all change within the next year, he said.

"Give me that much time to make a difference," Pasley said at the workshop.

Pasley never explained why he had not brought the manuals more up to date in the three-plus years he has been chief although he hinted that his officers are reluctant to do his bidding. When he became chief, Pasley said, he met with his supervisors to tell them he wanted to update the department's operating procedures, inventory and emergency manual.

"Oh, it was like calling their mother something," Pasley said.

The council refused to hear his suggestion about his contract, saying that it was not time to talk about his future with Kenneth City.

For the majority of his time as Kenneth City's police chief, Pasley, 68, has cultivated a folksy persona that has made him popular with some members of the council and town residents. But Mayor Teresa Zemaitis long complained about Pasley's liking for taking his command staff to Bob Evans for frequent long breakfasts as well as other issues. She asked last summer that the council fire him.

The council refused to do so and refused to listen to evidence of residents' complaints about Pasley that Zemaitis had compiled. After receiving continued complaints, Zemaitis called in the Pinellas County sheriff late last year to check what was going on in the department.

The sheriff found, among other things, that Kenneth City police officers frequently venture out of Kenneth City on duty. They also pulled computer records on one Kenneth City officer who "spent long periods of time stationary in one location." They found he used the department computer to log onto dating sites, Craigslist, and nutrition and bodybuilding sites, among others.

The findings prompted council member Troy Campbell, who oversees the Police Department, to call in the sheriff for a full audit. That should be completed this month or early next month, Campbell said.

"At the end of the day, we want an honest assessment of the police force and the equipment," Campbell said.

And while Campbell agreed that, "ultimately, the chief will be held accountable," he said he believes the real culprit might be money.

"It is clear to me even as a new councilman is (that) the second report may prove the department is underfunded," Campbell said. "I have a real concern that it may be underfunded."

The department has 12 officers plus the chief. The budget is about $1.2 million, which is about 55 percent of Kenneth City's overall $2.2 million operating budget.

Pasley agreed that there are budget woes, including his salary.

"I'm the lowest paid chief in Pinellas County," Pasley said.

Three of his officers, he said, make more than he does and two make as much.

"You're not going to get a new chief for $60,000," Pasley said.

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

Kenneth City police chief wants more time to fix department's problems 05/31/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 4:59pm]

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