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Citrus man hired to investigate feud

Nailing down facts in the fight between two Brooksville city officials will be a daunting task.

By JONATHAN ABEL
Published February 11, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - A month after the City Council called for an outside investigation into the ongoing problems in the city, Brooksville's acting city manager has chosen his man.

James Farley, a retired police chief, a former city manager and a current Crystal River City Council member, was picked to investigate the feud between police Chief Ed Tincher and human resources director Ron Baker.

The feud dates back to Baker's arrest in August on a drug charge. Baker said the charge was engineered by Tincher as retribution for reporting on an alleged affair between Tincher and a City Hall secretary.

Those allegations, among many others, will be the subject of Farley's investigation as he attempts the daunting task of nailing down the facts in the City Hall controversy.

Farley, who is being paid $100 an hour, said he expects the investigation to take two to three weeks. When he's done, he will submit a written report to acting City Manager Steve Baumgartner, who will then decide what disciplinary actions to take - if any.

Any evidence of criminal misconduct, Baumgartner said, would be turned over immediately to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Baumgartner said it wasn't easy to find someone who wanted to take the job, but he thought Farley was particularly qualified because of his background in law enforcement, city administration and elected office.

Not to mention the fact that the only person he knows among the staff is City Attorney David LaCroix, whom he worked with in Crystal River.

"He doesn't know the police chief. He doesn't know Ron Baker. He didn't even know where City Hall was," Baumgartner said.

Unlike in a criminal case in which an investigator can ask questions of anyone, only city employees will be required to talk to Farley.

This will be Farley's first time conducting a nonpolice investigation. He has already begun immersing himself in the allegations and the relevant documents, though the City Council will have to vote Monday night to approve the addition to the budget.

Baumgartner is asking for as much as $15,000 for the investigation.

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Farley worked his way up the ranks of law enforcement in South Florida, starting as a Fort Lauderdale patrol officer in 1967 and retiring as a Broward sheriff's commander in 1997.

He served as police chief of Crystal River from 1999 to 2003 and briefly as interim city manager. Since 2004, he has been a Crystal River City Council member.

Farley said these diverse experiences would help him get to the bottom of any problems in Brooksville.

"The city manager is concerned. The police chief is obviously concerned. And certainly the City Council members are concerned," Farley said on Friday. "I'm able to bring the perspective from all those viewpoints."

The multitalented Farley has also written two books - one is a cross between a police procedural and a suspense novel, the other a political thriller about a Secret Service officer and a plot to kill the president.

In his spare time, he runs a small eBay business selling tickets from the 1893 Columbian Exposition World's Fair, which commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' arrival to the New World.

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