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Sand delivery costs city worker his job

A city employee has been told he will lose his job for allegedly taking sand from the city to use in building a swimming pool at his home. Michael Barretto, supervisor of streets and drainage, will have a chance to appeal the decision in a hearing before City Manager Gil Hess on Monday. On Wednesday, he was suspended with pay pending the outcome of that hearing.

John Lawson, a former city worker, reported to city officials that he delivered a small dump truck load of sand to Barretto's home at 8470 Admiral Byrd Lane W in October. The home is outside city limits.

Barretto maintains the sand was bought from a private company, Hess said.

When he reported the incident, Lawson was embroiled in a dispute with the city in which he was fired, rehired and then fired again in January. Hess ordered an investigation by the Police Department.

"I wasn't going on (Lawson's) words," Hess said. "A man gets fired, he'll say anything."

Two initial police investigations, made by Sgt. Ron Roppolo and Chief David Cook, were inconclusive, Hess said. Shortly thereafter, Cook and Roppolo were indicted by a grand jury. Hess said he also learned that Barretto was a friend of Cook's.

So the city manager ordered another investigation, which was performed by Crystal River police Detective Gordon Rowland. Witnesses reported seeing a city truck at Barretto's house, Hess said.

The report convinced Hess that Barretto should be fired, unless Barretto produces new evidence at the hearing Monday.

"I'll get to the bottom of this one way or another," Hess said.

"Somebody was lying and I'm going to find out who, or try to."

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