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    City reduces penalties in Explorers post case

    Punishments are revised for two officers, one accused of consensual sex with a youth Explorer and the other of failing to report suspicions.

    By CHRIS TISCH

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 27, 2001


    LARGO -- The punishments meted out to two Largo police officers in the youth Explorers post scandal were reduced Monday after talks between city officials and the police union.

    Sgt. Melanie Holley and Officer Karl Gracy had filed grievances against the city asking that their punishments be overturned.

    Holley had received a written reprimand based on accusations that she failed to report suspicions about the Explorers program. Gracy had received a five-day suspension without pay based on accusations he had consensual sex with an 18-year-old Explorer while off-duty.

    The case was to go to arbitration this week, but police Chief Lester Aradi and a city attorney began talking with a police union representative two weeks ago and worked out a revised punishment.

    Holley's punishment was reduced to an oral reprimand, and Gracy's punishment was reduced to three days without pay. He served the five-day suspension in July, but will be reimbursed for the extra days off, Aradi said.

    Aradi recommended the revised punishments to City Manager Steve Stanton, who accepted the resolution.

    "The mediated punishment was adequate and fair," Aradi said Monday.

    Bill LauBach, executive director of the Pinellas County Police Benevolent Association, represented the officers in discussions with the city, Aradi said. LauBach could not be reached for comment Monday. The officers also could not be reached.

    The Police Department's investigation into allegations that several officers had improper relationships with members of the program began in March 2000. Several officers were accused of having had sexual relations with Explorers during the early 1990s.

    State prosecutors decided not to pursue charges against anyone involved in the Explorer post scandal, despite finding what they think was criminal misconduct by a former Largo police officer.

    Officer Patrick McKeever admitted having sex with a 17-year-old female Explorer in 1990, but the statute of limitations for unlawful sexual activity with a minor expired three years after the alleged act. McKeever later resigned.

    Officer Scott Doerflein was given a three-day suspension for taking a female Explorer to his apartment. He denied having sexual relations with her.

    Aradi said the passage of time and the unwillingness of some former Explorers to testify may have made public arbitration hearings difficult.

    "They wanted to get on with their lives and not go back to '92," he said.

    Aradi said the department seeks to do the same.

    "Now, finally, we are closing this chapter on the Explorers situation and we're going to look to the future," Aradi said.

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