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Politics

City worker is put on paid leave over videos

By ANNE LINDBERG
Published May 30, 2007


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A city employee who appears in two raunchy videos on Bubba the Love Sponge's Web site has been put on paid leave while officials figure out what, if anything, they can do to discipline him.

"We are aware of his participation with Mr. Sponge, " Pinellas Park spokesman Tim Caddell said. The difficulty is deciding whether the city can penalize Thomas J. Parmentier Jr. for off-the-job conduct.

That issue has bedeviled employers nationally in the past few years, particularly in matters considered health related. Some employers, for example, want to fire employees who smoke, even if they do it only at home.

"At this point, that is all stuff I think they (city officials) are looking into, " Caddell said. "I can't really comment on what the legalities are ... but I think that's what they're looking at is what is the line between your work and your private life?"

Until that question is answered, it is unlikely that Pinellas Park will take formal disciplinary action.

Right now, Parmentier, is home on administrative leave, drawing his $31, 484 annual salary. Parmentier, a utilities technician in the water maintenance division, has worked for the city since April 1998.

If disciplined or fired, "the violation would be ... conduct unbecoming (a city employee) and (conduct) that which interferes with the performance of your job, " Caddell said.

Parmentier, 38, who lives in Wesley Chapel, said his attorney had advised him not to comment.

Caddell said many factors could influence the way the city decides to handle the situation. Among those are the fact that Parmentier often deals with homeowners when he repairs broken water lines that cross their property.

Parmentier is "routinely sent out to dig up people's yards, " Caddell said. "It's not like he sits in a warehouse where no one ever sees him. He's out in the public."

Another question city officials have is whether Parmentier was legitimately away from work when the videos were made. The videos were common knowledge among co-workers.

"Evidently, there were a lot of people who knew about it, " Caddell said. That's how city officials discovered Parmentier's activities.

"It was no secret. Certainly not within his division, " Caddell said. "Somebody said something to somebody. ... It kind of got passed up the line. It was called to the attention of a supervisor, "

That was about two weeks ago, and the city has been investigating since.

"This is kind of out of the mainstream of what we normally deal with, " Caddell said.

So far, Caddell said, officials have not viewed the videos but they do have some still pictures that were allegedly taken from the videos.

Portions of the videos themselves are on the free section of the Web site. In one video, Parmentier, who is known as Tom the Treeman, is wearing dark shorts and a fishnet top. At one point, he is shot with paintballs. Elsewhere in the video, there are hints of other "tortures, " including a confrontation between ants and Parmentier's private parts. Viewers must pay to get the full video.

In another video, Parmentier is shown in vulgar behavior near a partially unclothed man. In a third video he is shown boxing with another man, both apparently blindfolded.

Caddell said he believes city officials are leaning toward some sort of discipline. And, he said, the investigation indicates that at least one other employee might be involved.

[Last modified May 30, 2007, 07:03:18]


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