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New police chief sought // Crystal River to look outside the force

Heeding reports of dissension in the ranks, the City Council decidedMonday to seek a replacement for Interim Police Chief Richard Martin, just 12 days after his appointment.

The council voted to adopt City Manager Gil Hess' recommendation that the city hire someone from outside the force. The decision followed a heated discussion that had one council member grilling Martin, two council members shouting at each other, and Police Department employees and others in the audience hissing and cheering.

"Everybody in the room can now see exactly what I'm talking about," council member Marjorie Copeland said after the discussion. "We cannot carry on this Police Department and get any togetherness with the way it is."

Copeland and Levi Phillips voted in favor of the proposal, and Kitty Ebert opposed it. Council members Sid Kennedy and Alex Ilnyckyj were absent from the discussion.

Hess appointed Martin, the second-ranking officer on the force, as interim police chief after Chief David Cook and two of his officers were indicted Jan. 31 on several charges, including grand theft. Cook and the officers, Sgt. Ron Roppolo and Cpl. Arthur Sams Jr., have been suspended without pay.

Martin's appointment may have been doomed from the beginning, as the department had been split between supporters of Cook and of Martin, administrative assistant Martha Langston has said.

At the council meeting, Phillips attacked Martin's qualifications to act as chief, outlining Martin's record and accusing him of lying to Hess and Phillips.

In a meeting with the city manager, Phillips and Officer Charles "Spig" Veal, Martin indicated that he would not reprimand Veal for delivering a message for Cook to a witness after the indictments were filed, Phillips and Hess said.

But less than three days later, Martin did so, according to Phillips.

Martin, 58, denied ruling out a reprimand for Veal for using poor judgment.

"I'm not a vindictive person," Martin said to council member Phillips.

"I think you are," Phillips said.

As Phillips continued to criticize Martin, Ebert interrupted and asked whether Phillips should be allowed to continue. Copeland, who was acting as moderator at the meeting, gave Phillips permission.

"I'm only questioning your favorite person," Phillips shouted back to Ebert.

Martin's personnel files show that he has been demoted once, was suspended for three days, received a reprimand on another occasion, and had minor accidents when he was driving patrol cars.

In 1983, Martin was demoted from sergeant to patrol officer with a cut in pay for not reporting damage to a patrol car; for being in the police station for two and a half hours when he was supposed to be on patrol; leaving the window open on a patrol car with a radar unit on the dashboard; and spreading rumors about another police officer.

Earlier in 1983, he was reprimanded after he backed into a tree on an unlit street at night, damaging the rear bumper, the seat and hurting himself.

Three years after his demotion, City Manager John Kelly put a statement in Martin's file saying that Martin had demonstrated that he is a loyal and dedicated employee and that the matter should be considered closed.

During the last two years, four officers gave Cook written complaints about Martin's attitude. Cook suspended Martin for three days without pay in one of the incidents, after Officer Arthur Rosati reported that Martin said that he "could not see why (Cook) is hiring all these blacks, both male and female, without talking to him first."

Martin declined comment Tuesday.

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