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Mean streets, friendly superior

By SUE CARLTON and AMY HERDY

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 15, 2001


It seems there were few tears of sympathy among his new colleagues for Hillsborough sheriff's Cpl. Mike Sheehan's transfer this week from his comfortable courthouse job as head bailiff (and campaign money man for the sheriff) to street patrol.

Sure, instead of schmoozing with judges all day, Sheehan will now be in charge of a squad patroling a neighborhood around the University of South Florida that has the worst crime in unincorporated Hillsborough.

But his new boss also is one of his closest friends and staunchest supporters.

As head of District I, Maj. Al Perotti Jr., who has known Sheehan for 30 years and publicly defended him throughout recent courthouse scandals, will also be the man overseeing his career while Sheehan patrols the mean streets.

The situation has a few deputies at the office grumbling about favoritism. After all, this was Sheehan's idea, blessed by Sheriff Cal Henderson himself.

Perotti, known for being forthright, said there's nothing to the complaints.

"I feel I could fair and impartially deal with something if it were to come up," said Perotti, who noted that Henderson approved the transfer without his input.

If he ever needed to recuse himself in a matter involving Sheehan, Perotti said, "It would be because of the appearance of impropriety, not because I doubt my ability to be fair."

SPEAKING OF JOBS: Both Henderson and Tampa police Chief Bennie Holder want their troops to know that there is nothing to rumors that they are jockeying to be head of the U.S. Marshal's Service.

The rumor initially focused on Henderson, who squelched it quickly. It then floated to the TPD, where Holder felt it necessary to address the issue at last week's staff meeting.

"I'm not applying," the chief said flatly. "I'm committed here until Aug. 23, 2003."

As far as the rumors that run rampant throughout the organization, Holder said: "If they didn't hear it from me, it's not accurate."

People assumed he was job hunting, Holder said, "because I endorsed President Bush."

As for politics, national or inside his building, Holder said, he doesn't have the time to concern himself with fallout.

"I'm too busy to worry about what people think," Holder said.

MOVING ON UP: At long last, the Tampa Police Department welcomed its newest public information officer and promptly placed her on the 10th floor of the downtown police headquarters building known as Big Blue.

The qualifications of Kathryn "Katie" Hughes are certainly golden: a former magistrate, cop and public information officer in Fairfax County, Va., Hughes also is fluent in Spanish and is a psychology major to boot (that should come in handy in dealing with reporters).

But why the 10th floor, when no one from the public -- reporters included -- is allowed without an escort?

It was simply a matter of logistics, Holder said. "It never occurred to me how burned out Steve Cole was," he said of his last spokesman. "So we're expanding the office."

Interim spokesman Joe Durkin will stay on as an assistant to Hughes, Holder said, and remain in the line of media fire in the downstairs office with secretary Jan Riley.

Since available office space was upstairs, he said, Hughes was placed there. And last but not least, said the man who is ever mindful of such things, "I wanted to give her more of a power base throughout the department. I don't want anyone thinking they can undermine her."

- Sue Carlton can be reached at (813) 226-3346 or carlton@sptimes.com. Amy Herdy can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or herdy@sptimes.com.

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