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Tarpon Springs officer Kazouris quits after inquiry clears him of any crime

TARPON SPRINGS — A Tarpon Springs police officer cleared of criminal wrongdoing on an allegation that he had improper contact with a female high school student resigned Friday.

"It is with a heavy heart that I offer this resignation, as I have always prided myself on my commitment to the people and commitment of Tarpon Springs," Cpl. Michael Kazouris said in a Friday letter to acting police Chief Robert Kochen.

"The frivolous allegations and one-sided investigation against me have made it impossible for me to return to this department."

Kazouris, 36, the leader of the Police Department's school resource officer team, was put on administrative leave in November after the department received a complaint that he was involved with a 17-year-old Tarpons Springs High student.

Last month, a department investigation resulted in no criminal charges being filed against Kazouris, but he remained the subject of an internal affairs investigation.

"We believe that a thorough, fair and objective investigation was completed by detectives and, in fact, that investigation did clear him of criminal wrongdoing," police spokeswoman Barbara Templeton said Friday.

An ongoing internal affairs investigation of the incident will be re-evaluated Monday, Templeton said.

The 16-page criminal investigation report revealed that Kazouris called or sent text messages to the student he had authority over 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. She graduated in June. She is not being named by the St. Petersburg Times because she was underage when the relationship began.

In a separate letter to Kochen, also dated Friday, Kazouris' attorney, Jerry Theophilopoulos, took issue with a Nov. 12 news release prepared by the department. He called the investigation a "witch hunt."

"Had the department at that time had the decency to adequately investigate the frivolous allegations against him, this press release would have read much differently," Theophilopoulos said.

"This premature press release, along with the subsequent misinformed media coverage, has caused Corporal Kazouris and his family undue emotional suffering and has unnecessarily defamed his good character."

Theophilopoulos did not return calls for further comment Friday.

Templeton said the department is following the law of the state.

"Because of the law, the public records law, we could not withhold that from public record and that is the only reason it was released," she said. "In Florida, with few exceptions, once an investigation is complete, it must be released."

Kazouris had worked with the department since October 2004. Last summer, the school resource officer team he led won the Agency of the Year award from the Florida Association of School Resource Officers.

A 1991 Tarpon Springs High graduate, Kazouris worked as a campus officer for Pinellas County Schools from 1997 to 2004. His personnel file contains more than three dozen letters of commendation from various people, including school officials. The file does not contain any disciplinary action.

Tarpon Springs officer Kazouris quits after inquiry clears him of any crime 03/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 6, 2009 10:23pm]
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