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Pinellas Park lieutenant named acting captain

Amid sexual and age discrimination charges in the police department, John Green has avoided much of the criticism.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 4, 2001


PINELLAS PARK -- A 21-year veteran of the police department has become the second officer in command, at least temporarily.

John Green, 52, was named acting captain last week. He fills the position previously held by Capt. Mike Vetter, who retired at the end of February.

The department's other captain, Robert Hempel, is on paid administrative leave while the Sheriff's Office investigates allegations that he used his private computer on city time and on city business.

Pinellas Park police Chief Dorene Thomas said Green is a leader. "He's been an outstanding model. He has a very high work ethic. He's shown loyalty to the department," Thomas said. "You have all the good attributes as to why you'd want a person of his caliber in that position."

Green was unavailable for comment.

With the exception of two months in late 1986, Green has worked for the Pinellas Park department since January 1980. He has served most recently as a lieutenant, one of the department's five highest-ranking officers.

He was earning about $60,400 a year as a lieutenant and has received no raise with his change in jobs.

Thomas said she hopes City Manager Jerry Mudd will approve at least a 5 percent raise, the maximum allowed by city rules, to go with Green's promotion.

Thomas said she has not decided whether to make his appointment to captain permanent because she is considering changes to the department's organization. That could mean elimination of the job of captain or that of lieutenant.

"There's a couple of things I'm considering. I haven't ruled out anything yet," Thomas said. "We've had so much change here. I just want to stabilize everything and figure out what I'll do from there."

Green's appointment comes at a stressful time for the Pinellas Park department, which has been under fire for the better part of a year.

Three female officers have alleged that they are the victims of sexual discrimination in the department. While denying the allegations, the city recently settled a lawsuit with one of those officers, Shirley Atherton Marsh, who no longer works for the department.

The other two lawsuits, filed by Officers Cindy Martin and Donna Saxer, are pending.

Two male officers also filed union grievances alleging they were victims of a "hit list" of officers targeted for dismissal based on their ages and willingness to speak out.

The allegations of sexual and age discrimination prompted the city to hire an outside consultant to perform a morale survey and another to investigate the hit list allegations.

Although no written hit list was found, both consultants spoke of a deeply troubled department. And Robert Lewis, the attorney who investigated the hit list allegations, spoke of a department about to implode.

Comments from officers who had participated in the morale survey and who had been interviewed by Lewis showed that officers distrusted the department's management, particularly Vetter and Hempel, the two captains.

Green, however, managed to avoid much of the criticism leveled at his peers and the department's sergeants.

"I think he has the support of the people within the department and the people outside the department as well," Thomas said.

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