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Chief loses week's pay for van ride

Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Pete Botto was suspended Thursday for taking his family to Tennessee over the New Year's holiday in a Fire Department passenger van.

Mayor Dick Greco decided to suspend Botto for a week without pay for unauthorized use of city property, City Attorney James Palermo said. His suspension will begin today.

The mayor, who heard recently that Botto had taken the van for private use, asked Botto point-blank if he had done it, Palermo said.

Botto admitted it.

"Pete is the first one to admit it was a bad judgment call," Palermo said. "He hasn't done it before and he won't do it again."

Botto did not return calls seeking comment.

The mayor and Palermo met with Botto on Thursday and told him about his punishment. Palermo said the mayor decided to suspend Botto, a firefighter for 35 years, for the same length of time as his Tennessee vacation.

At the meeting, Botto accepted the punishment and appeared to be in his usual good mood, Palermo said.

"He made an honest mistake," Palermo said.

The Fire Department uses the utility van to drive personnel around town. The van doesn't have fire equipment.

A notice of disciplinary action will go into Botto's file for unauthorized use of city property.

Assistant Fire Chief David Keene will run the department while Botto is out.