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Tarpon Springs, ex-cop agree to settlement

TARPON SPRINGS — City commissioners unanimously approved a settlement Tuesday night that would pay overtime to a police officer who resigned during an investigation that he had a relationship with a high school student.

In a federal lawsuit filed last year, Michael Kazouris contended that Tarpon Springs violated the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act when it did not pay him for the time he worked after 40 hours per week as a canine officer.

City Manager Mark LeCouris said the settlement, which pays Kazouris $6,211.03 in overtime and $22,500 for legal fees, was the best way to handle the matter. He said if the case would have gone to a jury, even a $1 award against the city would have forced the city to incur even more legal fees.

"I wasn't happy with it, but this is the best deal for the city," LeCouris said at Tuesday night's commission meeting. "I urge you to approve this so we can end this case."

As a result of the settlement, the city does not admit liability and there can be no re-employment of Kazouris and no disparagement of him.

In his initial complaint, Kazouris, 37, said he "worked in excess of forty hours per week without overtime compensation because, in addition to his normal duties, he was responsible for caring for the K-9 police dog that he boarded at his private residence."

Kazouris was the leader of the Police Department's school resource officer team until he resigned in March 2009 after being under scrutiny for several months over his involvement with a Tarpon Springs High School student.

An investigation determined that Kazouris started a relationship with a female student while she was still at Tarpon Springs High, a school where he worked.

A 16-page criminal investigation report revealed that Kazouris called or sent text messages to the student under his authority more than 5,300 times over the course of five months.

The investigation also found that Kazouris and the student had sex at Kazouris' home on at least three occasions after she turned 18 in May 2008.

Kazouris was cleared of criminal wrongdoing on an allegation that he had improper contact with the student, but he remained the subject of a Police Department internal affairs investigation until his resignation.

Kazouris joined the police department in 2004. He also was a canine officer with the department from November 2006 until he resigned.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4174.

Tarpon Springs, ex-cop agree to settlement 06/16/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 9:30pm]
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