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Growing rumors of Police Department's demise shot down

By BARBARA BEHRENDT
Published April 18, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - As the controversy swirling around the Brooksville Police Department has wound down, Mayor David Pugh this week decided to quell another potential dustup.

At the end of a lengthy City Council meeting on Monday, he publicly torpedoed a rumor making the rounds that, with the departure of longtime police Chief Ed Tincher, the city might be considering handing law enforcement services over to the Sheriff's Office.

"It's very difficult to hire new people," Pugh noted, especially when there was some concern that the Police Department could be dismantled.

"I have no intentions of getting rid of the Police Department," he said. The department, "has a lot of good people involved."

Earlier this month, the city reached an agreement with Tincher, allowing him to retire at the end of the year, which would mark his 30th year with the city. Between now and then he is on unpaid leave.

The agreement came after an investigation into wrongdoings by Tincher concluded that he was inefficient and intimidating, but acting City Manager Steve Baumgartner determined there was insufficient evidence to discipline the chief.

About a dozen years ago, then-Sheriff Tom Mylander proposed such a takeover as a savings to the city, but the move never happened.

In 2003, city officials expressed concern about the idea when a growing number of city calls for service were being answered by deputies.

Pugh said he knew that many people were talking about the issue again and that's why he thought it needed to be discussed.

"Unfortunately, it's part of the rumor mill," he said. People need to know that the council backs its Police Department "especially in this time of transition."

A new police chief will be sought after the City Council fills the job of city manager.

Council member Frankie Burnett said he agreed that the Police Department needed to stay with the city, but he wanted to note that the fire department also provides critical city services.

After the council spoke, acting police Chief Frank Ross came to the microphone.

"Thank you on behalf of the men and women of the Brooksville Police Department," he said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or 352 754-6117.

Fast Facts:

In other business

The Brooksville City Council on Monday night took the following actions:

- The council finalized its process for interviewing applicants and selecting a city manager. Interviews are April 30 and May 1 with a final selection May 1. The public will have a chance to ask applicants questions during a public forum from 5 to 6 p.m. April 30 in the council chambers. A public reception is set for 5-6:30 p.m. May 1 followed by a special council meeting. The applicants are Lester B. Baird Sr., Mitchell N. Bobowski and T. Jennene Norman-Vacha.

- Kellie Jo Stapleton, a member of the city's personnel board, resigned after one City Council member complained that she was the daughter of a City Council member. Council member Richard Lewis said he supported a new rule to ban the immediate family members from serving on that particular board because it makes disciplinary decisions. Council members decided to deal with that issue in May during a special workshop on personnel issues with their labor attorney. Stapleton is the daughter of Joe Bernardini.

- Council members tied in a vote to overturn a Planning and Zoning Commission approval allowing building setbacks lower than those required by city rules for a property at 602 Ellington St. A tie vote means the approval stands. Only four council members voted because the fifth, Frankie Burnett, sought the appeal because he is a neighbor. He argued that stricter setbacks were needed and that a single-family home was more appropriate on the site than the duplex planned for the location.

-The council asked its staff to talk with organizers of the Juneteenth Historical Festival planned for June 13-17 at Russell Street Park. Organizing committee spokesman Paul Boston made a presentation about the event to the council, and city officials said they wanted to be sure that they are not listed as sponsors unless they approve sponsorship. City staff will bring details of what city services the committee might need and what fees could be waived by the council at a future meeting.