Polygraph report: Tallier took bribes, stole

Published Sept. 20, 1996|Updated Sept. 16, 2005

In 1986, Kenneth J. Tallier tried to get a job with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

But according to the polygraph operator who screened him, Tallier acknowledged that as a New York City police officer, he:

+ Took $50,000 in bribes from gamblers and motorists.

+ Stole $3,000 in cash and $600 in jewelry from a dead body.

+ Dumped his car to collect insurance money.

His application was rejected.

Now Tallier is seeking another job in law enforcement: Pasco County sheriff.

He finished first in the Republican primary Sept. 3. He faces a runoff with former Pasco County Sheriff Jim Gillum _ who, just three months after Pinellas turned him down, made Tallier a deputy.

Confronted with the polygraph report Thursday night, Tallier denied everything.

"That is all false," he said, reading over the statement with his wife, Olga, at their home in Crane's Roost. "I never did any of those things. I applied, and I was rejected. I don't understand these statements."

Gillum seemed equally surprised when told of Tallier's file in Pinellas, obtained by the Times on Thursday.

"I wonder why we didn't turn any of that up in our background checks," Gillum said. "Maybe one of his buddies from New York slipped him through. I never knew anything about it."

Sheriff Lee Cannon said Gillum should have known.

"There is sufficient information in his file to indicate that Ken Tallier should never have been hired by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office," Cannon said, "and if Mr. Gillum is saying the information is not in his file, that is unacceptable. I think it must have been purposefully overlooked."

Cannon declined to release a copy of the results of the polygraph Tallier was given in Pasco, and Tallier refused to sign a waiver releasing the information.

Then he issued a blanket denial.

"No. No. No," he said when asked whether he had ever taken bribes, stolen money from a corpse or attempted insurance fraud. "It never happened."

A reporter next showed Tallier the polygraph report from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. He began rocking faster in his chair as he read the allegations. His wife leaned over his shoulder and shook her head.

"Twenty-nine years I've been married to you, and you didn't tell me about this," she said.

Tallier, wearing an open-neck white shirt, shorts and a pair of blue socks, denied he made the damaging statements. This was his explanation, point by point to the statements in the Pinellas polygraph report (paraphrased below):

+ Statement: Tallier stole $3,000 in cash and $600 in jewelry from a corpse during a death investigation around 1973.

"I did not make those statements to that man. I remember talking to this man. We talked about what went on in New York City, and I was aware of a lot of things that happened," he said. "I didn't do these things."

Tallier said the polygrapher may have confused him with other officers they talked about.

Who, then, was the individual who could have been the source of the confusion? Tallier said he didn't know any single person who had done such things.

"I was aware of officers stealing from (corpses) and things of this nature," Tallier said. The polygrapher "apparently misinterpreted."

Why would a law enforcement officer, especially one who specializes in discovering falsehoods, fabricate such specific details as dates and amounts?

Tallier did not answer.

+ Statement: Tallier defrauded his insurance company by dumping his car, then collecting $1,200 from insurance.

Tallier said he once owned a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle that was stolen in about 1969 or 1970 from a parking garage outside the co-op apartment where he and his wife lived in the Bronx.

He said he reported the car stolen and collected about $1,200 from Allstate Insurance. When asked how the car was stolen, he said, "It was just gone." The automobile was recovered stripped, he said. His wife said they used the money to buy a used Chevrolet Chevelle.

Although the details matched the allegation, there was never any insurance fraud, Tallier said.

"I did not do this," he said.

+ Statement: Tallier accepted $50,000 in bribes from gamblers and motorists.

Tallier said he regularly encountered motorists while working foot patrol. He would stop them at red lights or motion them to the side of the street, he said, but he never took a bribe.

He also said that gambling was going on everywhere in Harlem _ his patrol area _ but he only made one arrest for running numbers.

"It's almost impossible for a uniformed officer to make a gambling arrest," he said.

Tallier said the confusion may have come from his discussion with the polygraph examiner about the Knapp Commission. In the early 1970s, the Knapp Commission police corruption hearings resulted in the suspension or firing of more than 200 police officers.

+ Statement: Tallier was dropped a rank for striking a fellow member of the U.S. Army.

That, Tallier said, is true.

So why would the polygrapher concoct three whole-cloth lies and include a single truth?

"It's outrageous. It's outrageous. I don't understand it. I'd sure like to talk to him some day," Tallier said. Then he took the report to inspect the illegible signature at the bottom. "I'll have to talk to him now and find out why he would write these things down."

Could it have been political? Could it have been related to the brother-in-law Tallier had working for the Sheriff's Office? He answered no to both.

"It was friendly," Tallier said of the exam. "It lasted maybe 15 or 20 minutes."

When first questioned about the Pinellas application last week, Tallier said he applied but never followed through.

Thursday, he said that was not true, but he didn't remember the details of what had happened at first.

Tallier had some other troubles in New York.

He lost two days of vacation time after he allowed a prostitute in his custody to escape from the station house basement.

"She crawled out a window," he said. "I was a young man, first year on the job."

In Pasco, Tallier was investigated on suspicion he used excessive force during an arrest. The charge was unfounded, and the file was purged.

Until Thursday, the only known mark on Tallier's record was that he failed sergeant's exams twice in New York and once in Pasco.

In fact, his former Republican opponents gathered Thursday afternoon on the steps of what he hoped would be his future office: the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Oonagh Guenkel said she, Finley Gable and Gil Thivener posed for a photo to appear in one of Tallier's campaign fliers.

Thursday, Tallier acknowledged the challenge before him now is greater in light of the allegations.

"This is serious," he said. "It's not good."

Text of the report on Tallier's polygraph test

In 1986, Kenneth Tallier, now a candidate for the Republican nomination for Pasco County sheriff, took a polygraph test after he applied to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office for a job. Here is the text of the polygraph operator's hand-written report.

"Following information provided by applicant during pre-test interview:

Subject states, as a police officer, about 13 years ago at scene of DOA he stole $3000.00 in cash and $600.00 worth of jewelry.

As a police officer in 1969 dumped his personal car, reported same stolen and collected $1200 from insurance.

Before Knapp Comm. _ in his first 10 yrs. as police officer accepted estimated $50,000.00 from gamblers and motorists. While in US Army had Art. 15 for striking non-com _ reduced in rank.

No significant responses reflected on polygraph charts."

_ Times staff writer T. Christian Miller contributed to this report.