tampabay.com

Former chief weighs deal

By BARBARA BEHRENDT
Published May 23, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - The City Council approved an amended deal late Monday to end its dispute with longtime police Chief Ed Tincher. But on Tuesday, Tincher was still weighing his options.

"He is still deciding whether the changes are deal breakers or not," said his attorney, Ronald Freeman.

The council insisted on several additions to an agreement Tincher had signed off on last week. Those included a provision that Tincher drop the breach of contract lawsuit he filed against the city and city officials several weeks ago.

The council also held fast to a provision that would not allow Tincher to visit the Police Department unless he was there on official police business.

Freeman said Tincher is still considering whether to sue several city officials. Freeman believes Tincher has strong cases against Mayor David Pugh, council member Joe Bernardini and City Attorney David La Croix.

The agreement that city officials want Tincher to sign would bar him from pursuing such legal action.

The agreement would allow Tincher to remain on unpaid leave through the end of the year, would pay him $28,000 and would provide some benefits.

During Monday night's meeting, Freeman criticized the city's handling of the entire affair. He said La Croix had been misleading people. He called the charge that he made unapproved changes to the original agreement "ridiculous."

Freeman said that Tincher was not getting a "generous" settlement from the city but rather trading the chance to sue city officials "for pennies."

Pugh eventually cut off Freeman by saying he wanted to see the discussion move forward. He wanted to see what provisions Tincher could live with.

Pugh and others on the council were interested in a clause that would prevent Tincher from making any more derogatory remarks against the city and city officials but Freeman said that would be an unenforceable and one-sided solution.

Pugh argued strongly for the provision that would keep Tincher away from the Police Department. He reminded Freeman that employees of the department had spoken against Tincher in the misconduct investigation and would be uncomfortable with his presence at the department.

Freeman argued that Tincher deserved the same access as other area citizens.

"I also think he could meet off site" with his friends, Pugh said. "I'm concerned about employees who came forward and made statements."

Other council members agreed that the provision needed to stay in the agreement.

Council member Richard Lewis was the only one of the five board members who did not support the settlement. He said it was the city manager's job, not the council's, to settle disciplinary actions.

Freeman told the council that he would discuss the proposed changes with his client, who did not attend Monday's meeting.

La Croix told the council that he thought that Tincher would sign the agreement because if he didn't, he would face a disciplinary hearing on the outstanding misconduct charges.

"I don't think he wants his dirty laundry aired in public," La Croix said.

In a related development, La Croix received the council's permission to provide a letter to state licensing authorities on behalf of Jim Farley. Farley, a former police chief and now City Council member in Crystal River, conducted the investigations into Tincher and former human resources director Ron Baker.

A complaint has been filed with the state that he conducted those investigations without the proper licensing. La Croix told the council that Farley didn't need a license to conduct the kind of investigation he did for the city. But the city had told Farley at the time he was chosen that the city could help defend him if any legal questions arose about his role.

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