Thursday, November 23, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Port Richey needs new leader for Police Department

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It is time for Port Richey Police Chief Dave Brown to go. Brown, the number two person in the city's administrative hierarchy, has lost the support of his officers as attested to by the near unanimous vote of "no confidence'' from the Police Department's unionized employees.

That 15-1 smack down (only a civilian dispatcher supported the chief) came amid officer complaints about broken promises on requested promotions, transfers and budget items. If that wasn't evidence enough of Brown's management shortcomings, City Manager Tom O'Neill also has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate Brown's disposal of surplus city property.

O'Neill's letter to state investigators said there were allegations of improprieties at the city police impound lot and that three police vehicles were traded to a private company absent City Council approval, which is "not in compliance with city code.'' O'Neill doesn't need to wait for a state response. If Brown swapped public property without council authorization, he should be terminated for failing to follow what should be routine procurement procedures.

Brown should have some familiarity with these rules. In 2011, after a critical audit and the dismissal of both the city manager and later the public works director for spending irregularities, Brown, while serving as acting city manager, promised new safeguards to make the "procurement process as transparent as possible thereby increasing public confidence.'' Clearly, O'Neill has lost confidence or else he wouldn't be seeking an FDLE investigation.

Brown, who turns 60 later this year, became chief in 2008, eight years after joining the department. Unfortunately, the current questions about his leadership are not unique. Consider:

• In 2010, recording equipment being used in an unrelated criminal investigation captured a conversation between Brown and another department head commiserating about one of the city's elected leaders. "Maybe somebody needs to swing a 2 by 4 at'' council member Phil Abts, Brown said, adding "there is a solution to the Abts problem. They choose not to do it.''

• Last summer, Brown showed up at the scene in New Port Richey in which an officer found O'Neill passed out behind the wheel of his vehicle idling at a stop sign. The New Port Richey officer never completed a drunken driving investigation and Brown later chauffeured O'Neill home from the hospital. It brought a public rebuke from New Port Richey Chief Kim Bogart who suggested Brown's presence at the scene outside his jurisdiction "I believe was a degree of an influence.'' Prosecutors later charged O'Neill with misdemeanor driving under the influence after medical records showed his blood alcohol content measured 0.367 percent.

It's a pattern of poor judgment that damages Brown's credibility and his ability to serve as chief. The recent "no confidence'' vote further undermines his ability to lead the department in this city of 3,000 residents. Brown should volunteer his resignation. If not, O'Neill should demand it to restore public confidence in the city's law enforcement agency.

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