Sunday, June 17, 2018
Public safety

PHSC academy instructor, whistle-blower fired

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco-Hernando State College on July 17 fired its police academy's instructor coordinator whose complaints launched a recent Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation.

Patricia Maxwell began working at the college in March, hired on the same day as the new academy director, Charlie May. Her relationship with her co-workers quickly soured.

Maxwell detailed some of her grievances in an email last month to PHSC president Katherine Johnson.

On May 6, Maxwell wrote, instructor Kyle Hughes followed her as she left the college's Dade City campus for home. When she texted to May about what happened, he responded, "Can we talk Friday over lunch; do you like chocolate?" according to Maxwell's email.

The next day, Maxwell wrote, she had a meeting with May and Hughes where she got into a shouting match with Hughes and May did not intervene.

"I have asked Director May on more than one occasion for assistance to no avail," she wrote.

Earlier this month, Hughes, May and Maxwell all met with Kevin Burdzinski, vice president of administration and finance for the college. He wrote in a report that there was a "pervasive attitude of conflict and distrust" between Maxwell and Hughes.

The college and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, which have been at odds for more than a year over academy operations, have been given an Oct. 1 deadline by House Speaker Will Weatherford to reach an agreement on running an academy.

Fueling that conflict are concerns that Maxwell raised with FDLE last month, complaining that instructors were "routinely" absent from classes. She also said the student guide for the academy was being used without approval by the college, questions were removed from tests to pass students who otherwise would have failed and shotgun firearms qualifications were being incorrectly scored.

On that last point, FDLE bureau chief Glen Hopkins urged that the affected cadets be requalified "using appropriate scoring protocols."

The college did its own investigation into the complaints and found that the other concerns were either unfounded — such as the one about the student guide — or had already been resolved.

College spokeswoman Lucy Miller said Monday that Maxwell was fired because she "was not fulfilling the expectations of her position." At the time she was fired, Maxwell was on a 90-day new-hire probation, which had been extended 30 days for the same reason she was ultimately fired, according to the college.

Miller said the college plans to fill the position soon.

A call to Maxwell on Monday was not returned.

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