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Ex-police officer sues over records

Published Sep. 1, 2005

A former New Port Richey police officer who resigned after a drunken driving conviction is suing the city for the second time, alleging that officials broke public records laws.

Arnold Uttley, in a lawsuit filed last week in circuit court, claims that officials either failed to produce public records in response to his written requests, or took too long.

He is seeking a court order requiring the city to respond fully and in a timely manner to his and all future public records requests.

If the court finds the city violated public records laws, Uttley is asking for a judgment ordering that the officials responsible be suspended, removed, impeached or referred to the State Attorney's Office for prosecution.

He is not seeking monetary damages.

"He just wants recognition that there was a violation," said his attorney, Patrice Pucci of St. Petersburg.

Uttley, who resigned from the Police Department in 1997 after pleading no contest to DUI, recently settled his first lawsuit against the city. Court records indicate the city's insurance company was prepared to pay Uttley $25,000.

In his first lawsuit, Uttley claimed that the city treated him unfairly because another officer who was charged with DUI was allowed to return to work. City officials refused to rehire Uttley.

While the first lawsuit was pending, Uttley, as a private citizen and not as a litigant, submitted four public records requests to the city between September and December 2002. He asked for documents related to such matters as compensation and officer discipline.

The city waited until March of this year to produce some records, the lawsuit claims. Other records have yet to be turned over, Uttley alleges.

"That's unacceptable under the statute," Pucci said.

The city does not comment on pending litigation.