CLEARWATER — The candidate did not, on paper, meet minimum requirements of the position. He was not the clear choice of the review board. He also listed a degree on his application that he did not really have.
But then-Parks and Recreation athletics coordinator Brian Craig was chosen for the police special operations coordinator position over 61 applicants anyway. The June 23 transfer came while his Parks and Recreation subordinate, Bob Carpenter, was being investigated for missing funds and an outside auditor was reviewing the department’s finances. Carpenter was arrested and charged on July 27 with scheming to defraud.
Craig did not respond to requests for comment. But Police Chief Dan Slaughter said Craig was simply the best candidate.
"Brian had more time on with the city ... his experience in dealing with law enforcement was more advanced," Slaughter said of the other candidates.
The police special operations coordinator oversees volunteers, non-officer police aides, extra duty programs, special operations vehicles and outreach. The job posting had two minimum qualifications: a degree in law enforcement, management, business, industrial psychology or related field; and one year of progressively responsible experience in law enforcement.
Craig stated on his application he had a degree in "recreation/business."
He actually has bachelor’s degree in "recreation, parks and tourism" from University of Florida, which is not a business degree, according to UF Director of Communications Margot Winick.
Craig never worked in law enforcement but spent 19 years with Parks and Recreation, most recently as athletics coordinator overseeing logistics, budget and programs for the city’s athletics and special events.
Slaughter said Craig’s experience coordinating special duty officers for city events counted as progressive law enforcement experience and gave him a unique understanding of the police department’s needs.
Human Resources Director Joe Roseto said minimum requirements are more like a guide and are "not written in stone." Hiring managers can instead select candidates based on background and experience.
Roseto said a candidate claiming to have a degree he does not actually have would "not necessarily" disqualify them.
"I guess we could split hairs and say it’s not in business," Roseto said of Craig’s degree. "At the end of the day he has a degree."
After Human Resources cut about half of the 62 applications, Lt. Michael Ogliaruso whittled the pool to four finalists. One declined an interview and three went before the review board of Ogliaruso, Lt. Natalia Illich-Hailey and Sgt. Thomas Lulek.
Ogliaruso said he considered Craig and Nancy Selvick, an office specialist with CPD, equally the top two.
Stephen Verrill, an adjunct professor in the Department of Sociology & Criminal Justice at Texas A&M University, was not referred to Slaughter because he did not have the familiarity with the department, Ogliaruso said. Verrill is a former police officer and has a Ph.D in criminology.
Slaughter acknowledged Ogliaruso "was leaning toward" Selvick.
But Slaughter said Selvick did not have a bachelor’s degree and her law enforcement experience has been mostly clerical.
According to her application, Selvick, who declined a request for comment, has worked with CPD since 2016. She was an information technician responsible for maintaining communications manuals and evaluations, preparing shift line-up sheets and other duties. Most recently as the office specialist, she coordinated the extra duty program, worked with vendors and officers for payment and scheduling of jobs, and was the administrative support for police aides, volunteers and other programs.
Slaughter acknowledged he and Craig are personal friends, who meet socially for baseball games and lunch. He said he’s built relationships with many employees over 26 years but his judgment is objective.
"There was no favoritism played in this process for me at all," Slaughter said. "He made more sense. There was no deal or attempt to find him a safe place to land."
Carpenter, Craig’s former subordinate, resigned on March 29 after being questioned by Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar about discrepancies in revenue. Dunbar referred the investigation to Clearwater Police.
The police coordinator position was advertised on April 16 and Craig applied April 30. The city hired an auditor to analyze Parks and Recreation on May 9, and Craig was hired by the police department June 23. His new position pays $3,000 less per year than his $62,127 parks and recreation job. Carpenter, 58, was arrested on July 27 and charged with felony scheming to defraud after police said he pocketed $148,000 in cash from a food vendor, a soccer league and other cash payments.
Craig was directly responsible for ensuring Carpenter was depositing cash and filing paperwork.
City Manager Bill Horne said he is awaiting results of the ongoing forensic audit before determining if other employees should be disciplined.
But he said if discipline is appropriate, it won’t matter which department the employee is working in now.
Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.