BROOKSVILLE — The chief of the Brooksville Police Department has been fired as the city considers whether to disband the agency.
City Manager Mark Kutney said Thursday that George Turner was relieved of duty the day before.
"A number of issues had lead me to lose confidence in his leadership and his leadership of his department,'' Kutney said.
After coaching Turner over several issues in recent months, Kutney said he decided that it was time to end the relationship.
"I just wasn't getting the cooperation,'' he said.
Turner issued a prepared statement that said, at the end of business on Wednesday he was presented with two letters, one terminating him and the other a letter of resignation. He said he did not resign.
"The city of Brooksville has been on a witch hunt for several months,'' he said. "I have always taken the high road and I will continue to do so.''
He said he planned to hire an attorney to answer any additional questions.
Brooksville Police Detective Tracey Schofield was made interim chief for the next few days, Kutney said. Schofield is leaving the city at the end of the month for a position elsewhere and Kutney said he is going to assess the options in the meantime.
Brooksville City Council voted earlier this month to engage in negotiations with Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis to possibly have his department take over city law enforcement. The move is one of the main components of the council's plan to cut costs due to dire financial problems revealed last year. The council is also considering negotiating with the county to take over its fire service.
The ongoing turmoil in Brooksville also has lead to public comments that perhaps the city should be dissolved, while others have worked at pushing for the recall of several council members.
Turner, who has been with Brooksville for 10 years and been in law enforcement for 41 years, has been in the line of fire lately for several reasons. Council member Natalie Kahler has criticized his nearly $160,000 compensation package, which includes payment toward his pension and retirement funds and make him the highest paid employee in the city. Other council members have also urged a renegotiation of Turner's package.
Council members also have expressed concern that Turner was not at the last two City Council meetings during which the future of his department was being discussed. He missed the first because he was at an event in North Port, where he was a finalist for the police chief job but did not get it. He also did not attend the meeting a week later in which the formal vote was taken. He was on vacation that time.
Kutney said that Turner's termination wasn't related to his pay package. He said he had extended Turner the opportunity to send presentations to the City Council on his department's budget when he was absent. But council members made note at the meetings that they didn't have a satisfactory presentation from him.
Questions also have been raised about whether Turner provided too much information in a press release he made earlier this week about an arrest in a murder case but Kutney said he had no other information he could share on that issue.
While Turner did not want to say more about the circumstances of his termination, he did say he was concerned about the current state of the city and its talks with the sheriff.
"I'm worried about my people,'' he said of his staff, "and I'm worried about the city of Brooksville.''
Contact Barbara Behrendt at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.