Sunday, February 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Academy job fails public trust test

Pasco-Hernando Community College needs to re-evaluate the hiring procedures for its police academy. The work history of James Nagy, assistant coordinator of the college's Law Enforcement Academy, as detailed by Times staff writer Alex Orlando, is a disturbing string of inappropriate behavior that preceded his departure from two police agencies and prompted other departments to reject his employment applications.

No matter. PHCC promoted him last fall from adjunct instructor to part-time staffer handling cadet applications, administering tests, filling in for other instructors and acting as night-time security guard.

It's an embarrassment even if the college thinks otherwise. (See PHCC's response elsewhere on this page.) The academy is entrusted with preparing cadets to become future police officers, but Nagy's elevation demonstrates little regard for ethics and public trust.

Eight months before his promotion, witness accounts suggest Nagy, as a Tarpon Spring police officer, stalked a 14-year-old girl at a skating rink, captured images of her clothed buttocks on his phone, and then locked himself into his patrol car and destroyed the evidence when confronted by the teen-ager's father. Police couldn't make an aggravated stalking allegation stick, but Nagy resigned amid an internal investigation and kept a state law enforcement certificate. (Nagy didn't list his five months working for Tarpon Springs police on his PHCC application.)

It's a recurring theme. Nagy, as a Pasco sheriff's lieutenant, was accused of shooting photos of partially disrobed women at an outdoor music festival in Zephyrhills in 2006. The investigation stalled because the memory chip, in the sarcastic words of then-Sheriff Bob White, "remarkably, somehow, burned to a crisp in the camera.'' Nagy retired five years later while the subject of five investigations and blamed union-related politics for his departure.

Months later, as part of pre-employment screening for other potential jobs, Nagy admitted to a polygraph examiner that he left work duties for sexual trysts and didn't consider himself derelict because he should be treated as a salaried employee accountable for his own time.

The pattern of misconduct and deceitful explanations is hardly the lesson to be instilling on the region's future police officers. No wonder local sheriffs are concerned.

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