PINELLAS PARK — A police lieutenant and sergeant have resigned and elected to retire early after an internal investigation found department personnel returned home with supplies meant for hurricane relief efforts in the Panhandle, according to Pinellas Park police.
Lt. Scott Golczewski, who was promoted in September, resigned after 23 years on the force. Sgt. Michael Griffiths spent 14 years with the department and was promoted in 2014.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: After hurricane duty, a complaint followed Pinellas Park officers home
Seven other members of the police department who also went to Bay County to help after Hurricane Michael devastated the panhandle in October were given letters of "verbal counseling for their poor judgement in the matter." None of them were identified by the police department.
The internal investigation was launched after the department said it discovered Griffiths returned from Bay County with a "significant quantity" of ready-to-eat meals, or MREs. The agency found several other employees had the done same, so Pinellas Park police Chief Michael Haworth ordered an investigation.
The agency said that, when the Pinellas Park police team was about to leave Bay County, a relief organization called Operation BBQ Rescue told them they were about to shut down and that any leftover food would have to be taken away or thrown out.
The organization said they allowed the officers to take those supplies out of the area. Pinellas Park police said these supplies were brought back: 26 boxes of MREs, six boxes of baby wipes, two bundles of rope, a box of tarps and a bag of dried fruit. Seven more boxes of MREs and a box of tarps were left in police vehicles with the intent of distributing them elsewhere in Bay County, the police department said, but they were "likely inadvertently left in vehicles at the conclusion of the mission, and also were returned to Pinellas Park."
The department did not offer any more details about why the supplies were brought back to the city. Haworth had those supplies were sent back to Bay County.
"Despite permission to do so, the authorization and removal of disaster relief supplies from a storm damaged area was a poor judgement call made by our supervisory team members," Haworth said in a statement. "It is unfortunate that the hard work and aide our agency members provided to Bay County residents on behalf of our city and residents is clouded by this poor decision."
Contact McKenna Oxenden at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mack_oxenden.