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    For officers, food is a deal gone bad


    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 24, 2001

    TAMPA -- The Tampa police union complained vehemently last month that many officers were forced to work the Gasparilla parade for hours without food or drink.

    So the union took over the care and feeding of the troops for last Saturday's Knight Parade in Ybor City.

    The result: Dozens of officers wound up sick from apparent food poisoning. Many missed work and some have filed workers' compensation claims.

    About 50 officers got sick, police said, and the culprit appears to be Cuban sandwiches. More specifically, the mayonnaise on those sandwiches.

    "A bunch of us got sick, and that's the only thing we could think it would be," said Detective Marty Gonzalez.

    Gonzalez said he was handed a sandwich, chips, an apple and a copy of the latest police union contract by Police Benevolent Association President Jim Thompson, who is campaigning for re-election.

    By Sunday afternoon, Gonzalez said, he was feeling very ill. "I was achy, with flu-like symptoms" and nausea, he said. "I was sick for probably a day and a half before I could eat anything."

    He was not alone.

    "About 20 people that I know of got sick," said Sgt. Rick DeLiguori of the Firehouse squad. "The only common denominator was the sandwiches."

    Many officers missed at least a day of work.

    It's unclear who made the sandwiches. Thompson could not be reached.

    Thompson wrote a scathing letter to Police Chief Bennie Holder last month about complaints from officers who did not get food or drinks during the Jan. 27 Gasparilla invasion and parade.

    The union usually handles that task, but stepped aside in favor of Eventmakers, the parade promoter.

    After the complaints, Thompson insisted on handling food and drink for the Knight Parade.

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