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Official's suicide note cites his pain, job stress

Pain, job stress and the firing of the city finance director were the reasons Pinellas Park City Manager Jerry Mudd gave for taking his own life.

Mudd cited those factors in his six-sentence suicide note written Feb. 11, the night he stabbed himself in the heart. He had been at home recuperating from gall bladder surgery.

"The pressures of my job, in general, have become too much for me to bear," Mudd wrote. "I go in sorrow that the pain in my body are too great for the task for which I have been assigned. Please forgive me."

Mudd then signed his name.

City officials released the note Thursday, a day after the medical examiner issued his autopsy and toxicology report concluding Mudd committed suicide.

City officials had withheld the note, saying it was part of an "ongoing criminal investigation." That investigation is complete, officials said Thursday.

In the handwritten note, Mudd referred to last summer's decision by the City Council to pay off some water and sewer bonds to save money on interest.

But the city did not pay off the bonds until after Mudd's death. Then-finance administrator Dick Wheaton had failed to redeem them. The failure to promptly pay off the bonds cost Pinellas Park taxpayers $67,177 in interest.

Wheaton maintains that Mudd knew that the bonds had not been paid off. But Mudd said he did not know, only discovering it after he fired Wheaton in January for twice neglecting to send enough money to city pension plans.

"It was my understanding that the finance administrator was proceeding with the task," Mudd wrote. "However, it always troubled me to cause pain for others, even when it was in the public interest to take such action."

Wheaton said Thursday that Mudd did not show distress while firing him. Mudd's voice was calm and his hands were steady, he said.

"He just went through reading me my rights," Wheaton said. "I wouldn't say he was real distressed. I guess it wasn't real pleasant for him. I don't know how he was feeling, really."

Interim City Manager Mike Gustafson, who sat in on the firing, agreed Mudd did not show distress. But typically, Gustafson said, Mudd became anguished any time he fired an employee.

"Every employee that he took action with weighed heavily on him," Gustafson said. "I don't think he slept for nights before. He really, really cared how he handled employees . . .."

Mudd, 56, fired many people during his five-year tenure as city manager, including an assistant city manager/finance administrator and a police chief. Both those firings were more controversial.

It's unclear why Wheaton's situation might have weighed heavily on Mudd's mind. Wheaton said the two were not friends outside work. And Gustafson said Mudd never referred to the suffering the decision caused him.

"I was just as shocked as everyone else," Gustafson said.