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Rotarians stand and clap to honor former police chief

(ran West edition)

A member suggested the standing ovation for David Milchan, who resigned after being suspended without pay.

Former police Chief David Milchan got a standing ovation Thursday from fellow Rotary Club members.

Among those standing and applauding was Pinellas Park council member Ed Taylor, who Milchan said "stabbed him in the back" for vocally supporting the city manager's decision to suspend Milchan without pay. Milchan made the accusation in an e-mail to some Rotary members.

"Yes, I most certainly did (stand)," Taylor said. "I hold no bitterness towards David. I'm saddened that he has let his department down when they could have used his leadership."

Not only did Rotarians give Milchan a standing ovation, they also heaped praise on him and passed around the hat for donations to wish him well. The money will not go to Milchan. It is a way of collecting funds for Rotary projects.

"I thought it would be the right thing to do," said Pinellas Park resident George Carter, who suggested the ovation. "I thought he served the community well for a long time."

Carter is not the only Rotarian to think that.

"He's very well-loved in the Rotary Club, and he got a lot of well wishes," said Rita Bott, the club's immediate past president. "It was a very warm and nice meeting for him. . . . It was nice. I felt good about it. I think everybody felt good about it."

Milchan said he was "overwhelmed" by his reception at Rotary.

"At first, I was concerned (that) my reputation is shot," Milchan said. "But after all the letters and phone calls and adulation I'm getting, I realized I had a lot more friends than I realized."

Milchan said his friends know he's not the type of person to do the things he's been accused of.

Milchan has been under fire, portrayed as a poor leader who allowed sexual, racial and age discrimination to run rampant in his Police Department. The criticism grew until it included Pinellas Park City Manager Jerry Mudd.

Mudd accused Milchan of wagging his finger in the city manager's face and threatening to file an age-discrimination suit if he was fired. Mudd suspended Milchan without pay and gave him five days to explain why he should not be fired. Milchan resigned.

Carter, a Pinellas Park resident, said he was upset with the way the situation was handled. Any firing, he said, should have waited until an outside consultant had finished a survey of the Police Department's morale.

"I can't understand why they didn't wait until things were over," Carter said.