Capt. Jeffrey McDougal, one of the top officers at the Zephyrhills Police Department, has resigned after a total of two decades of service.
"After much thought and reflection I have decided to pursue a transition in my life," McDougal, 43, wrote in his two-paragraph resignation letter to police Chief David Shears on Tuesday. "I have enjoyed my time with the Zephyrhills Police Department and serving the citizens of this community."
The resignation is effective Feb. 21, but McDougal is taking paid leave until that date.
McDougal was hired by the department in 1992, and left in 2006 to work in the private sector for two years, but remained a reserve officer during that time. Though the years, he worked his way through the ranks to operations captain, overseeing about 22 officers. Recent job performances say he's been average to a bit above average on the job.
Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, McDougal said his decision to leave the department was rooted in personal reasons and his frustration battling rumors in recent years.
In March 2010, McDougal came under fire after a package of documents was sent to city officials anonymously, alleging the officer had failed to disclose on his job application when he was rehired in 2008 that he had been involved in a case investigated by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office in 1992. A notary had been charged with fraudulently notarizing documents for McDougal in a land deal, and McDougal was a witness in the case.
The anonymous complaint noted the job application specifically asks whether the applicant has "ever been the subject of or a suspect in any criminal investigation," and McDougal checked "no." The City Council declined to order a formal investigation into whether McDougal should have disclosed his involvement in the case.
McDougal said Thursday that for the next two years, several untrue rumors were spread about him, including talk that he was pulled over for driving under the influence, but given a ride home instead of being arrested.
"There's no truth to it and anybody who knows me knows it," he said.
He said fending off such rumors while going through a divorce has simply been too much for him to do while continuing to work at the department.
"I'm just not going to put any more energy into those false accusations," McDougal said.
He declined to say what he might do next, but said he won't rule out going back into law enforcement.
"I might end up at another agency and that would be all right with me," he said.
And, he added, he has no ill feelings toward the department or the city.
"I hold no animosity toward the department," he said. "I love that community."
Capt. Rob McKinney, who heads up the administrative division, said the feeling is mutual.
"It's not personal," he said. "I certainly wish him well."
McDougal's position won't be filled anytime soon.
"Right now we're going to hold onto that position unless it becomes absolutely necessary," said City Manager Jim Drumm, who said staff would review the position when they prepare for the 2012-13 budget.
For now McKinney, the chief and Lt. Derek Brewer will split McDougal's duties.