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Outside party will look into Brooksville feud

The acting city manager says he will ask the council for up to $15,000 to hire someone.

By JONATHAN ABEL
Published January 31, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - After weeks of back-and-forth over who should investigate the feud at City Hall, acting City Manager Steve Baumgartner decided to turn the inquiry over to someone from outside the city.

Baumgartner, in his second week leading the city, said he will ask the City Council for up to $15,000 to hire an outside investigator to look into the feud between the police chief and the human resources director.

"It will be perceived as fairer even though it's more expensive," Baumgartner said.

The investigator will likely be a retired police officer, ideally someone with a law degree, Baumgartner said, and the focus of the inquiry will be the issues between police Chief Ed Tincher and human resources director Ron Baker.

Baker was arrested in August on a charge that he gave Xanax to a co-worker. Baker said the arrest was engineered by Tincher as retribution for reporting on an alleged affair between Tincher and a City Hall secretary.

Accusations on both sides led to Baker, Tincher and a police lieutenant being put on administrative leave for two weeks and former City Manager Richard Anderson being forced to resign.

The feud spread to include recriminations from other staff and even council members.

Initially, the council voted to have the Hernando Sheriff's Office look into the problems at the Brooksville Police Department, but the Sheriff's Office declined.

Then, the city's labor attorney said that it was up to the city manager to decide how to pursue the investigation - not the council.

Anderson, the city manager at the time, said that he would run the investigation himself.

But last week he was removed from office by a vote of the council, and Finance Director Steve Baumgartner was named acting city manager.

Baumgartner decided this weekend that the only fair way to go about the inquiry was to bring in someone from outside.

He said that the City Council would have some say over the decision - it could approve or deny the request for the money.

City Attorney David LaCroix is in charge of whittling down the list of possible investigators, Baumgartner said, but LaCroix said he had no comment.

Council member Lara Bradburn welcomed the decision.

"Mr. Baumgartner feels it's in the city's best interest to bring someone in from the outside who doesn't have a personal or political agenda," she said, "and that's what the majority of council has said all along."

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or 352 754-6114.