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Suspended staffer to return to work

The city's personnel administrator will return to work Monday, a month after he was suspended for getting drunk at a local restaurant and arguing with an off-duty police officer.

Jeffrey Sutton was suspended for a month starting Sept. 11, two days after he and the officer got into an argument at the Bostonian restaurant in New Port Richey.

As a condition of the suspension, Sutton, 41, was told to seek professional treatment for substance and dependency problems.

On Thursday, City Manager Gerald Seeber said he was satisfied that Sutton had completed his treatment.

"He's done what I've asked him to do," Seeber said.

Sutton was out of town Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

According to a police report, Sutton got into an argument with Officer James Perez about 10:20 p.m. Sept. 9. During the argument, Sutton told Perez he could be fired if he didn't quit filing reports about Sutton with the city manager.

Perez also claimed that Sutton challenged him to a fistfight outside the restaurant, but Perez declined. Sutton told police he was intoxicated at the time and couldn't remember whether he offered to fight.

City officials have little to say about the incident.

Seeber declined to say what Sutton and Perez were fighting about, and declined to talk about the reports that had been filed by Perez. Police Chief Aage Madsen did not return a reporter's phone calls about the incident.

Sutton, who earns $36,691 a year, was suspended without pay. But he had accumulated enough medical leave time since he was hired by the city in March 1984 that he was not without a paycheck during the past month.

Seeber said the suspension is the first disciplinary action the city has ever taken against Sutton, but he said Sutton has had problems with drinking in the past.

"He has never consumed on the job _ that's not the case here," Seeber said. "(But) there have been some incidents in the past . . . involving his activities elsewhere.

"This last incident was the just the straw that broke the camel's back."

As personnel director, Sutton is indirectly in charge of the management of about 150 full-time city employees.

Before being hired by the city, he worked as a sale representative for a home insulation company.