Brooksville's police chief loses 1st round

Published May 9, 2007

BROOKSVILLE - The city won its first round on Monday in the lawsuit filed against it by departing police Chief Ed Tincher.

In a Pinellas County courtroom, a judge rejected Tincher's effort to keep the city from following through with discipline against him for misconduct.

The small victory might have been the saving grace for city attorney David La Croix. A move by City Council member Richard Lewis to oust La Croix before the attorney's planned Sept. 30 departure failed on Monday night.

While Mayor David Pugh looked at La Croix and said, "I would not care one way or the other, " if La Croix left immediately, he also credited him for Monday's accomplishments in court.

The Tincher lawsuit was primarily why Lewis wanted La Croix to leave now.

La Croix admitted that he failed to read all of the changes that Tincher's attorney had made in an agreement that the interim city manager had worked out with Tincher.

A key section that he missed would have allowed Tincher, who is facing disciplinary action for misconduct, to sue individual council members, city employees and agents.

La Croix declared the agreement void. Tincher, in turn, sued the city for breach of contract and sought an injunction to keep from facing any disciplinary action from the city.

La Croix told the council that Tincher was unable to pass the legal tests needed to get an injunction. He also said that the outgoing chief contradicted his own legal complaint in testimony Monday.

La Croix expressed optimism that the city will succeed in the case and said he would be filing motions to bring the case to a quick close.

He also said that, because the mistake was his fault, he was defending the case at no cost to the city and that he will serve as the prosecutor if Tincher does have a due process hearing.

The council on Monday also settled its discipline case against former human resources director Ron Baker.

Lewis balked at that settlement, saying he did not believe it was council's job to settle discipline issues. He would be willing to approve money set aside for Baker in the agreement but not the actual agreement.

His was the only vote against the settlement.

Baker was given three months' pay and the city will carry him as an employee on leave through the end of the year for retirement purposes.

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