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St. Petersburg officer resigns in wake of inappropriate relationship

Published May 31, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — A police officer who had a romantic affair with a woman whose boyfriend he helped arrest resigned Thursday rather than face discipline from an administrative board.

Officer John Klipp was one of three St. Petersburg officers who faced discipline for various violations of police policy.

A chain of command board chaired by police Chief Chuck Harmon also suspended an officer who had what was described as an inappropriate but "nonsexual" relationship with a 17-year-old girl in the Police Explorer program and an officer who failed to show up for a work-related court hearing.

Klipp, according to a board memo, pursued a relationship with Tracy DiMasi in July 2012, after he investigated a domestic battery case involving DiMasi and her boyfriend, Joseph Ciannilli.

Ciannilli's attorney, Rohom Khonsari, filed a complaint against Klipp in December. He gave internal affairs investigators copies of numerous text messages and photos that Klipp and DiMasi had exchanged in the months after Ciannilli's arrest, according to the memo.

During the original domestic battery investigation, Klipp gave his number to DiMasi, police said. In their subsequent exchanges, Klipp addressed DiMasi with affectionate names and made regular remarks about her appearance, the memo stated. He also sent her inappropriate pictures of himself.

On July 21, Klipp and DiMasi met at Lake Maggiore Park in order for him to return Cianilli's keys, the memo stated. While they talked, Klipp gave DiMasi what she later described as a "French kiss" that lasted 15 to 20 seconds.

Klipp resigned before the board convened Thursday. Had he not resigned, he would have been fired, police said.

The board also issued an 80-hour work suspension to Officer Kenneth Pienik, who had an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

Pienik served as a leader in the Police Department's Explorer program, which helps educate teens about careers in law enforcement. From November to January, he got to know the girl, who was a member of the program.

The relationship escalated to the point that Pienik began contacting the girl outside the scope of the Explorer program, sending her messages through Facebook and talking to her without her parents' knowledge, according to a board memo.

In addition to the work suspension, Pienik was removed from his post in the Explorer program, police said.

The board issued a 40-hour suspension to Officer Brian Gainer, who failed to attend a March deposition related to a battery case, police said. Gainer, who has previous violations of a similar nature, was subject to harsher discipline due to being labeled a "chronic offender" of the police code of conduct.

Times staff writer Lisa Gartner contributed to this report.