tampabay.com

Acting police chief fires officer

By BARBARA BEHRENDT
Published May 30, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - Saying it was "in the city's best interest, " acting police Chief Frank Ross on Tuesday fired police Officer Terry Elliott in connection with a series of policy violations.

Elliott, 56, a five-year veteran of the force, was involved in recent personnel controversies at City Hall that fueled the departure of both longtime police Chief Ed Tincher and human resources director Ron Baker.

The decision to fire Elliott followed internal affairs investigations into recent complaints against the officer, who has a record of other disciplinary problems.

Ross cited the following reasons for the dismissal:

- A December 2006 internal investigation found Elliott to be untruthful and that he violated department policy by discussing an open internal affairs investigation.

- Elliott reportedly missed a court date in March 2007, resulting in a recommendation for disciplinary action by his supervisor. Elliott has a history of at least three other such instances including a recommendation for dismissal by his supervisor in 2006.

- Elliott was found to have used profane language to refer to a police dispatcher in a complaint lodged by another police employee in April. Elliott denied that charge, but a recorder in a police car confirmed he called the dispatcher a "stupid b----."

The officer was notified two weeks ago that he could face discipline and possible dismissal. He pleaded his case to Ross in a hearing last week. In his notice of disciplinary action Tuesday, Ross said he took that information into consideration and dropped one charge.

In that instance, an internal investigation found that Elliott had given a copy of the Police Department's standard operating procedures to Mayor David Pugh. Elliott had no permission to do that, concluded the investigator, who sustained the charge of sharing confidential information.

But even after dropping that case, Ross wrote in a letter to Elliott on Tuesday that he had concluded that "it is in the city's best interests to dismiss you from your employment.

"Any one of the other reasons, standing alone or in any combination, constitutes sufficient cause for dismissal pursuant to ... the city of Brooksville Employee Personnel Manual, " Ross wrote.

Elliott could not be reached for comment Tuesday. He has 14 days to appeal his dismissal to the city manager.

His personnel record shows that he had previously served eight years in the Navy, five years with the Tampa Police Department and worked for various automobile companies in several capacities before coming to the Brooksville Police Department.

In addition to the charges cited by Ross for the dismissal, Elliott's internal affairs investigation file and personnel file indicate a variety of other problems.

In the most recent cases, a former Brooksville detective, Ronald Woods, complained that Elliott had been harassing him to sign an affidavit claiming that police Lt. Rick Hankins had asked Woods to share his prescription pain medications with him.

The affidavit had been prepared by Ron Baker, then the human resources director. Baker himself lost his job after providing prescription medication to another employee in his department.

Elliott reportedly called Woods half a dozen times urging him to sign the paperwork. He didn't stop until after Woods' attorney wrote a letter asking for the communications to cease.

Hankins denied asking for any pills from Woods and told Tincher that he thought Woods was being coerced into implicating him.

He also told Tincher that he believed Baker's actions to seek the affidavit could be "in retaliation for the recent investigation this agency conducted on Mr. Baker."

Elliott's work history with Brooksville also includes several reprimands, suspensions and verbal warnings about issues ranging from insubordination to improper handling of evidence.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or 352 848-1434.