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Sheriff's Office fires three

Published Oct. 4, 2005

Two detention deputies and an evidence clerk have been fired from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office after separate misconduct investigations.

An inmate's haircut, including an obscene word cut into his hair; a relationship with an inmate; and mishandling of evidence led to the dismissals. All three employees are appealing the firings.

Detention Deputy William Lonergan, 26, was fired May 1 after investigators concluded he was responsible for giving a "mentally disadvantaged" inmate a haircut that was so bad, officials called it "inhumane treatment."

On Feb. 18, a trusty supervised by Lonergan was giving inmate Rafael Cintron, 39, a haircut at the jail. Cintron told investigators that Lonergan told the trusty how to cut his hair and was laughing, but Cintron could not see what was done because there was no mirror.

According to investigators, the haircut was "grossly unacceptable." Cintron ended up with his head shaved on both sides, with longer hair in a strip on the top and across the back. Letters cut in the hair on the back of his head spelled out an obscenity.

Lonergan took photos of Cintron, according to the investigation, and circulated them among other jail employees. Investigators said another deputy who saw the haircut that day told Lonergan to correct it. Lonergan shaved the hair on the back of Cintron's head until the obscene word was not visible.

A detention deputy for three years, Lonergan _ who was suspended for five days last year for improper use of force during a confrontation with an inmate _ told investigators he left during the haircut and did not participate in the shearing.

At the time of his firing, he was under investigation for a complaint involving unapproved employment outside the department. According to investigators, Lonergan took over ownership in March of a Manatee County lounge called Temptations, which features exotic dancers.

In other disciplinary action, Detention Deputy Brenda Barnett, 37, was fired last week after admitting to investigators that she had a two-month relationship with an inmate.

Investigators found letters written by Barnett and her home telephone number in the 19-year-old inmate's cell. Other inmates told investigators that Barnett, a deputy for four years, and the inmate touched each other through the bars, but she denied there was any physical contact.

In a statement to her supervisors, Barnett apologized for "poor judgment" and said she was vulnerable because of marital problems.

Property and evidence clerk Mary Styers, a sheriff's employee for 10 years, was fired June 12. Investigators concluded she intentionally altered computer entries for property and misidentified items to make another employee's job performance look bad. She and the other employee were competing for a promotion.

The investigation determined that Styers also lied about the irregularities.

She told investigators that she inadvertently made the errors while showing her 8-year-old daughter how she did her job.