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Tincher offers to settle dispute

City Attorney David La Croix said he'd pass the offer on unrecommended.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT
Published May 16, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - Ed Tincher has again come to the table in an effort to settle his ongoing disputes with the city.

The ousted police chief, through his new attorney, has proposed an agreement with the city remarkably similar to one discussed with city officials more than a month ago.

If the details can be worked out, and the City Council approves, the agreement would end the breach of contract lawsuit that Tincher filed against Brooksville several weeks ago.

Tincher also sued, but failed, to get an injunction to keep the city from disciplining him for misconduct. Earlier this year, an independent investigator had found that the long-time chief had mishandled evidence, used intimidation as a management tool and had not treated female employees properly.

The former chief denied the claims and interim City Manager Steve Baumgartner along with City Attorney David La Croix had crafted an agreement which would have allowed Tincher to retire at the end of the year and remain on unpaid administrative leave and accrue certain benefits until then.

Tincher would also have gotten a cash payment of $28,000.

In return, Tincher agreed to not sue the city. But as a new draft of that agreement was drawn up by Tincher's attorney at the time, Ronald Freeman, Freeman added other changes which La Croix never noticed in his review.

While Tincher still could not sue the city, the critical change would have allowed Tincher to still sue City Council members, employees and city agents. La Croix declared the agreement void, calling Freeman's actions unethical.

Tincher sued. Then last week a judge in Pinellas County threw out the injunction request. The breach of contract suit is still pending.

Baumgartner told La Croix last week that Tincher had fired his attorney. In a letter to Tincher's new attorney Andrew Salzman, dated Monday, La Croix details what happened with the original agreement and Freeman's changes.

La Croix states that he and the city manager cannot recommend a new agreement that will not require Tincher and Freeman to pay part of the legal costs because "Freeman and Tincher filed a frivolous lawsuit."

He also says that they cannot recommend the agreement if it does not include "an apology to those persons insulted by Ed at the press conference after we thought he had agreed to not do that."

On Tuesday Salzman responded, disputing that Freeman had acted improperly and instead calling La Croix's behavior into question.

Salzman wrote that attorney fees and "a forced apology" should be considered minimal issues in the case and notes "I hope individuals' egos do not impede the settlement."

The proposed agreement Tincher is considering signing does not include Tincher paying attorney fees or apologizing. It does include Tincher dropping his lawsuit and agreeing to no further action against the city, employees and elected officials.

La Croix told Salzman that if Tincher signed the agreement as written by Friday, it would be forwarded to the City Council for their consideration at Monday's regular meeting. It would not be recommended or opposed by city officials.

La Croix explained to Salzman earlier, then "you and Ed can try to sell it to at least three members of Council."

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