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Kenneth City police facing investigation by the EEOC

The Kenneth City Police Department, already the subject of two investigations, is also the target of as many as three federal complaints alleging discrimination or sexual harassment, officials say.

The latest accusations have prompted the city's insurer to get involved in an attempt to protect the city from lawsuits.

The three federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints were disclosed at a Town Council meeting Wednesday during discussion of how to keep the city from getting sued.

"These are allegations that have come up within the last three months," Mayor Harold Paxton said.

The director of the city's insurance pool is recommending that a lawyer investigate the allegations and act as a consultant on other matters. The investigator would make recommendations on how to end strife in the department and improve management, training and operations.

"We have knowledge of three complaints against the city," said Jim Hicks, executive director of Public Risk Management of Florida, the city's self-funded insurance pool. "My main goal is to make sure that the city of Kenneth City is a good risk."

Council members agreed on hiring the investigator for $125 an hour.

The EEOC investigation and Hicks' plan would bring to four the number of investigations at the Police Department since Chief Jeff Walkowiak was suspended in March.

Since then, residents and the Town Council have argued bitterly over the chief's suspension. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has completed an investigation into the Police Department and turned its findings over to the state attorney's office, which is another inquiry.

Hicks, council members and town attorney Andrew Salzman declined to say who the EEOC complaints were filed against or to discuss any other specifics.

A May letter from Hicks to Salzman gave some detail: "I am in receipt of two (2) possible discrimination and sexual harassment complaints within the police department."

Salzman called the meeting Wednesday to bring to council members' attention the potential for trouble regarding the town's Police Department.

"We'd be remiss if we had a concern and we didn't bring it to your attention," Salzman said.