A federal officer with the Bay Pines Veterans Affairs Police Department in Pinellas County accidentally recorded himself having sex with a woman in his squad car during a shift in September.
Officer Joseph Barotti self-reported the incident to his supervisor after he realized he had captured the incident on his body-worn camera, emails obtained through a public records request show.
An investigation begun Sept. 5 by Barotti’s supervisors and the Bay Pines administrative system determined on Oct. 20 that the sexual interaction was consensual but that Barotti had failed to adhere to the organization’s codes of conduct by having sex while on duty. Sexual activity on federal property is considered a crime, unless the people involved are residents. Barotti lives outside of Bay Pines.
Administrative discipline was recommended in an email, but it is unclear from the heavily redacted investigation and emails whether Barotti faced punishment. He was still employed by the department as of Thursday.
“This type of behavior is unacceptable, and we will take appropriate action,” Bay Pines Healthcare System Director and CEO Paul M. Russo wrote Thursday in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.
Russo said he could not provide more details on the investigation, including any discipline, out of privacy concerns and to ensure the “integrity of the administrative process is maintained.” Emails show that several members of the police department’s leadership staff had watched the video, but a Bay Pines spokesperson declined to answer how many members of leadership had access to it. A records request for the video was denied due to a law that protects the privacy of government employees.
Bay Pines declined to make Barotti available for an interview. Attempts to reach him by phone were unsuccessful.
Bay Pines federal police officers are tasked with serving the Bay Pines Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, which spans 337 acres with 4,300 employees and serves over 110,000 veteran patients each year. Eighty-five percent of the officers are veterans, according to the department’s website.
In an Oct. 20 email, Russo questioned how a reporter had heard about the incident and speculated that a former Bay Pines officer may have leaked information.
“I need the background on the officer who may have done this,” Russo wrote. He added his concern that some people are “trying to paint with a wide brush that Bay Pines has a sexual harassment problem and management does not do anything about it.”
Last month, U.S. Reps. Anna Paulina Luna, R-St. Petersburg, and Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, told the Times that they are working with congressional oversight committees to look into issues at Bay Pines following complaints about operations at Bay Pines National Cemetery.
In November, former Bay Pines Cemetery Director Doug Maddox was transferred to Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell after female employees spoke to the Times, saying that Maddox harassed them and created a toxic work environment.