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Report documents file tampering

A state examination of 178 employment files at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office has disclosed that more than a third were tampered with, and that the tampering might have been ordered by high-ranking sheriff's officials. A report of the month-long investigation was made public Tuesday, a week after the state attorney, who had reviewed the report, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support criminal charges.

The report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows that:

About 62 of 178 files of employees or applicants had altered or back-dated documents. These documents were summaries of personal references, and summaries of checks with applicants' previous employers, some completed long after the employee was hired.

Two deputies said they were present when the sheriff's bureau commander of administration, James O'Keefe, ordered his personnel director, Nancy Grantham, to oversee the retyping and back-dating of documents in March.

"O'Keefe advised that this procedure would be implemented to avoid additional allegations by the "Press,"' according to Deputy John Fairbanks.

O'Keefe has denied all the allegations made by the two deputies, and O'Keefe and Grantham returned to work Tuesday after spending four weeks on paid administrative leave during the FDLE investigation.

The sheriff's former polygraph operator, Deputy Dan McDonough, admitted that he had used a malfunctioning machine for almost a year and a half, and that every one of the polygraph examinations of 251 people who later were hired are suspect.

Sheriff Jim Gillum said Tuesday that the disclosures of polygraph malfunction corroborated earlier records he released, and that he already had stated that there were serious problems in the personnel department's recent record.

"I am not happy with it," Gillum said. "I have to be when it comes down to it, because I am responsible for it." Gillum said the FDLE report confirmed that "there are holes in the system. There are problems in the system. It needs to be fixed."

In her statement to the FDLE, personnel director Grantham said she directed an employee to back-date summary reports, but reversed her order later that day. She denied the allegation that O'Keefe had ordered her to have documents back-dated.

Gillum said "I'm not going to comment" on the allegation his bureau commander O'Keefe had ordered employees to back-date documents, until he had talked to all the parties involved himself.

The FDLE report contained several exhibits. One showed that a personal reference of an employee hired Oct. 1, 1990 was not contacted until April 1991. The reference was added to a reference summary that had a 1988 date, without any notation of the subsequent addition.

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney James T. Russell, after reviewing the FDLE's work, wrote June 5 that "At this time, insufficient evidence exists to establish that criminal violations have occurred." Russell's chief assistant said Monday he did not think the state attorney's office would take up the investigation again "unless new information were to come up."

_ Staff writer Charlotte Sutton contributed to this report.