Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas Animal Services director resigns after allegations of misconduct

The head of Pinellas County Animal Services has resigned after being accused of making vulgar comments to employees.

The resignation of Phillip Morgan came less than three months after he took over the leadership of a troubled agency that has been plagued by dysfunction and anxiety. Assistant County Administrator Maureen Freaney will run Animal Services until a replacement is found. Freaney could not be reached Monday for comment.

A human rights investigation found that Morgan had violated county employment rules against offensive conduct and the use of profane and abusive language. Morgan, 51, denied the charges and told investigators he's the victim of pushback from employees who felt threatened by changes that were needed.

Among other things, Morgan specifically was accused of the following:

• Talking with co-workers about donkey shows in Tijuana, Mexico, and the performances of the women in the shows.

• Talking about a female volunteer's breasts while cupping his hands in front of his chest. He was also accused of saying that he intentionally kept her in his office "for a length of time to look at her body and that he imagined the things he would like to do to her."

The report also referred to other comments Morgan was alleged to have made, including telling one employee that "no one … likes you." He was also alleged to have said during a discussion about euthanasia, "So, you're just going to kill an animal," a comment that one employee said might be considered offensive.

Morgan resigned Wednesday in a three-paragraph handwritten note to Freaney after being shown the report.

"Due to personal issues, it is with much regret and a heavy heart I must resign my position … effective immediately," Morgan wrote. "I truly enjoyed my time with your organization and will miss working with you and the citizens of Pinellas County."

Morgan said Monday that he did not resign because of the report.

"Things are not always as they appear. You know as well as I do, you can't believe everything you read," Morgan said. "I absolutely, unequivocally deny most of the allegations. Some of the allegations were taken out of context."

Morgan said he decided to leave because he felt that his ability to lead had been compromised and because of the likelihood he would be accused of retaliation for actions he might have to take in the future. He had been on the $107,000-a-year job only since Sept. 24.

Morgan declined to discuss issues facing Pinellas Animal Services, which has been plagued by dysfunction for at least the past few years.

A May 2011 investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that more than a quarter of the department's 47 employees had been disciplined during the preceding five years. The problems ranged from minor to deadly negligence and included an incident in which one animal control officer put four kittens into a trap on a hot day to try to lure their mother. One kitten died and two others had to be euthanized after they suffered heat exhaustion.

In August 2011, the agency's director resigned and was temporarily replaced by Will Davis, who had most recently run the county's risk management office.

Morgan, a consultant for managing and promoting a positive public image of municipal animal shelters, animal control departments and nonprofits, was hired to take over. Morgan had also headed up the Kootenai Humane Society in Hayden, Idaho, and the Escondido Humane Society in Escondido, Calif.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.

Comments
Toronto attacker likely hated women; 3 murdered film students had stumbled into Mexican gang battle; more in world news

Toronto attacker likely hated women; 3 murdered film students had stumbled into Mexican gang battle; more in world news

CanadaToronto attacker hated womenThe suspect in the deadly van attack in Toronto posted a chilling Facebook message just before plowing into a crowded sidewalk, authorities said Tuesday. The post indicated the computer studies graduate and ex-milita...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Carlos Gomez says he was guilty of only one thing in Sunday’s epic walkoff homer celebration

Carlos Gomez says he was guilty of only one thing in Sunday’s epic walkoff homer celebration

BALTIMORE – Carlos Gomez is perfectly willing to explain the specific elements that went into his epic celebration tour around the bases following Sunday's walkoff home run.The bat flip and raised arms were his initial reaction to how well he h...
Updated: 4 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 24

Tuesday’s scoreboardBaseballCalvary Chr. 8, Jesuit 1Boys TennisClass 3A, District 9-10 Regional Semifinal: Osceola 4, King 1Girls TennisClass 3A, District 9-10 Regional Semifinal: Osceola 4, Freedom 1...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Days before graduation, crash kills Lakewood High senior, injures two others

Days before graduation, crash kills Lakewood High senior, injures two others

ST. PETERSBURG — Caps and gowns were in the future for Bryson Welton-Williams and his two friends.Then came Tuesday’s horrific car crash.The three 18-year-old Lakewood High School seniors drove off from school a few minutes early, just 22 days away f...
Updated: 6 hours ago
SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

LAND O’LAKES — A school resource officer at Sunlake High School is under investigation after he tried to take a female student into custody on Tuesday, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.School officials asked the SRO remove the student f...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Teen killed after SUV runs red light; man who fled scene captured

Teen killed after SUV runs red light; man who fled scene captured

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 17-year-old girl was killed Tuesday when her car was hit by a sport-utility vehicle that ran a red light, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.One of the occupants of the SUV who ran from the crash scene was captured hours late...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Softball: Haley Murphy, East Bay back in top form

Softball: Haley Murphy, East Bay back in top form

PLANT CITY — East Bay senior Haley Murphy had to take a few games off early this season to give the flaring tendinitis in her left knee a rest.When Murphy did come back around midseason, East Bay coach Glenn Rodriguez eased her into the fl...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

The family of the 18-year-old Sarasota high school student under fire for the racist prom proposal he sent out on social media this weekend has publicly apologized for their son’s actions.They also said that as a result of his actions, he will not at...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Softball: Boca Ciega gets a shot at defending district champ

DUNEDIN — Standing in centerfield during her team's Class 6A-9 district semifinal Tuesday night, Boca Ciega's Mia Blasingane had one dominating thought: "We want Tarpon Springs real bad. I was saying that to myself. I want to see Tarpon Springs...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Softball: Alonso knocks off defending state finalist PHU in 9A-8 semifinals

PALM HARBOR — To get an idea of just how tough the competition is in Class 9A, District 8, consider that there has been a different tournament champion each of the past three seasons.All three — Newsome (2015), Alonso (2016) and Palm Harb...
Updated: 7 hours ago