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Clearwater fires firefighter accused of DUI, cocaine possession

Clearwater Fire & Rescue has made headlines over the last several years for issues ranging from low morale to sexual misconduct to sick leave abuse. In the most recent episode, a firefighter accused in April of driving under the influence, cocaine possession and resisting arrest was fired May 18. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
Clearwater Fire & Rescue has made headlines over the last several years for issues ranging from low morale to sexual misconduct to sick leave abuse. In the most recent episode, a firefighter accused in April of driving under the influence, cocaine possession and resisting arrest was fired May 18. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
Published May 29, 2018

CLEARWATER — A firefighter accused in April of driving under the influence, cocaine possession and resisting arrest has been fired.

Pinellas County sheriff's deputies arrested Andrew Leeth, 35, in St. Pete Beach after a concerned citizen noticed him unresponsive behind the wheel at a traffic light. Clearwater officials initially placed him on administrative duty, then fired him May 18, said Human Resources Director Joseph Roseto.

Leeth's prior discipline and criminal history were factors in his termination, Roseto said. Court records show he was arrested on a DUI charge in 2009 and convicted two years later. He also had two prior suspensions without pay, Roseto said.

"In our system of progressive discipline," he said, "unless there's some extraordinary circumstance, it will rise to the level of termination."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Clearwater firefighter accused of DUI, cocaine possession.

Leeth could not be reached for comment. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to court records. He was hired in March 2007, made $65,249 a year and was assigned to Fire Station 47, 1460 Lakeview Road as a firefighter-paramedic, according to the city.

Sean Becker, president of the Clearwater Fire Fighters Association, said the union plans to challenge Leeth's termination but for now is focused on helping him enroll in substance abuse treatment.

"The union is doing everything that we can to get him the help that he needs," Becker said.

He added that Leeth's cocaine charge was dropped, although court records show it's still active.

Clearwater Fire & Rescue has made headlines over the last several years for issues ranging from low morale to sexual misconduct to sick leave abuse. In 2016, organizational psychologists evaluated the department and found concerns among employees over city leadership, unclear direction for the future, and rumors and gossip. Only about a third of Fire & Rescue employees had a positive impression of the department.

More recently, a deputy chief and an administrative support manager resigned in lieu of being fired after a city audit found the city paid about $94,000 in unearned or unauthorized sick time, benefits and incentives to Fire & Rescue employees over the past five years.

The city is planning to provide Fire Chief Scott Ehlers with an executive coach to bolster his administrative management skills.

Contact Kathryn Varn at kvarn@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kathrynvarn.