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FDLE nears end of sheriff's inquiry

The state investigation into an allegation of records tampering at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office probably will be finished within two weeks, a state spokesman said Monday. "I think we're getting pretty close to a resolution here," said Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) spokesman John Joyce. "It won't be too long."

Pasco Sheriff Jim Gillum requested the investigation May 3, after his former departmental attorney suggested that personnel department files had been tampered with. Sheriff's officials have fired or sought the resignations of at least 11 employees since a review of hiring procedures began last year.

As he invited in the FDLE, Gillum put three of his top officials _ bureau commander of administration James O'Keefe, Capt. John Morrison and personnel director Nancy Grantham _ on paid administrative leave. Those three still were on leave last week.

On Monday, Joyce declined to provide details of the investigation. The FDLE will conclude its work by submitting a report to Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney James T. Russell, Joyce said. That report might find no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, find evidence of criminal wrongdoing, or simply make recommendations, Joyce said.

After the state attorney makes a decision regarding the report, the FDLE will give a copy to Gillum, Joyce said.

The turmoil in the personnel department has been attributed to a variety of causes: polygraph malfunctions, errors by a former polygraph operator, incomplete background checks and record keeping.

According to records released last month, the sheriff's polygraph equipment experienced malfunctions from July 1990 until it was replaced March 14. At the time, the personnel department was in the process of getting candidates for more than 150 jobs at the new jail in Land O'Lakes.

Lee Cannon, the attorney for former sheriff's polygraph operator James D. McDonough, said McDonough's superiors ordered him to continue using the machine even after he reported the malfunctions.

Cannon, Gillum's departmental attorney for the two years ending in July 1990, made the allegation of record tampering to the sheriff and to the state attorney's office.

Gillum said operator error was the reason for flawed polygraph tests.

McDonough, the polygraph operator, was transferred to road duty Nov. 12. That same week, three recently hired employees were fired or asked to resign. On Nov. 19, the assistant director of personnel, Peter J. Daly, was transferred to road patrol and received a pay cut.

Eight more employees were let go in March and April of this year, as sheriff's officials reviewed more and more files for possible lapses in screening.

Since the FLDE investigation was announced, sheriff's officials have declined to comment on problems in hiring, or say if additional firings or resignations have occurred. Chief Deputy Jim Francis did not return a telephone message Monday.