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Sheriff-elect fires 10 staffers

Two others resign. Only three people remain from Sheriff Lee Cannon's command staff. All are captains.

In his last week as sheriff, Lee Cannon gathered his inner circle for a luncheon at Chili's on Thursday for a final thank you.

What was supposed to be a happy, hug-filled occasion turned into a wake. Just hours earlier, Sheriff-elect Bob White fired several employees, many of them long-serving captains and majors.

"No one imagined that this transition would end in this kind of wholesale slaughter," said Capt. Kim Bogart, who was in charge of the agency's accreditation before his firing on Thursday.

In all, 10 people were fired and two others resigned. Only three people in Cannon's command staff _ all captains _ kept their jobs. Staffers were surprised by White's decisions; during the transition he said publicly that employees should not fear mass firings.

"He gave these folks no indication whatsoever that they would be terminated. (White) and his transition team walked around this agency telling everyone that everything was going to be okay," said Maj. Darlene Greene, who announced her retirement last week after a 31-year career with the agency. She said she wanted to retire before White fired her.

"Over 200 years of experience with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office has been asked to walk out the door," Greene said.

Late in the afternoon, White said he chose not to "reappoint" some people and discussed plans for the future.

"It's not a matter of being fired or asked to resign," White said. "They were told in a polite, courteous and professional way that they would not be reappointed."

White, who officially takes office on Tuesday, announced the names of his nine-member command staff:

+ Col. Al Nienhuis will serve as undersheriff. Nienhuis worked for nearly 12 years at the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, where White worked before his election as sheriff. Nienhuis was a captain at that agency for three years.

+ Lt. Col. Richard Worch will be in charge of the Administrative and Investigative Services Bureau. Worch served as sheriff of Charlotte County for 12 years until he was voted out of office Nov. 7. He lost to a bail bondsman by more than 5,000 votes.

+ Maj. Michael Page will supervise the corrections bureau. Page previously worked for the state Department of Corrections.

+ Maj. Maurice Radford will be supervisor of the Uniform Operations Bureau. He worked for 15 years at the Department of Environmental Protection.

+ Capt. Jim Driscoll will be in charge of community relations. Driscoll previously worked for the Pasco agency and retired as a sergeant in 1999. He is a sworn law enforcement officer; the position was previously held by Bill Kontyko, a civilian.

+ Capt. Rick Neal will supervise the west side of the county. He worked in Charlotte County under Sheriff Worch as a captain.

+ Capt. Pete Petrosky will be in charge of the east side of the county. He has worked for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office for 17 years and was previously captain of criminal investigations.

+ Capt. Alan Weinstein will supervise investigations. He has worked for the Pasco Sheriff's Office for 22 years, most recently as captain of administrative services.

+ Capt. Paul Veslock, a 24-year veteran of the department, will supervise the county jail. He was previously major of corrections.

Two other staffing changes were announced: Human Resources Director Alta Trufant will be replaced by Brian Corley, a former employee in the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court Jed Pittman. Alan Herring will be in charge of the agency's budget and expenditures.

In unveiling the changes, White said that he wants to remove "chain of command barriers" that exist within law enforcement agencies. He said that reducing the command staff from 13 to nine people will save the agency $200,000 to $300,000 a year. More changes are likely, he said.

"We want to get lean and deliver the services that people told us we want in Pasco County," White said.

Sheriff Cannon's executive assistant, Harold Sample, resigned on Thursday. In November, Major Gary Fairbanks retired.

The people that were fired and their number of years with the Pasco Sheriff's Office are: William Kontyko, director of community relations, six years; Orville Williamson, director of special projects, six years; and Major Richard Ortiz,criminal investigations, eight years. Craig Putnam, the director of fleet maintenance, also was not reappointed. He has been with the agency about a year.

Also, Capt. Tom Brooks, uniform operations bureau, 21 years; Capt. Tom Hennessy, uniform operations bureau, 18 years; Capt. William Murphy, criminal investigations bureau, 16 years; Capt. Jerry Godwin, eight years; Capt. John Fairbanks, corrections bureau, 13 years, Capt. Kim Bogart, accreditation, 16 years.

"That command staff served me well. They served the people of Pasco County well. They are good, loyal, dedicated people," said Sheriff Cannon. "The new sheriff certainly has the authority to select his command staff as he so pleases."

_ Tamara Lush is the police reporter in Pasco County. She can be reached at 869-6245 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6245. Her e-mail address is lushsptimes.com

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