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Ex-officer's suit claims chief filed false reports

The former Tarpon Springs officer's suit says statements on his separation from the department have hampered his bid to find work.

By KATHERINE GAZELLA

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2000


TARPON SPRINGS -- A former city police officer claims in a civil rights lawsuit that false statements about him by police Chief Mark LeCouris have prevented him from getting a job with other police departments.

Andrew J. DerDiarian said in his federal lawsuit against the city that LeCouris filed reports about him "which (LeCouris) has known to be untrue." He asks for $4-million, plus attorneys' fees and other expenses.

The lawsuit said LeCouris filed reports with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that said DerDiarian was not truthful in a written application and oral interview process.

The lawsuit did not elaborate on those reports, and DerDiarian's attorney did not return calls seeking comment. DerDiarian could not be reached.

The lawsuit also claims that the Tarpon Springs Police Department intentionally supplied false, misleading and contradictory statements describing DerDiarian's separation from the department, in order to deny DerDiarian his employment and legal rights.

According to the lawsuit, the Police Department filed an affidavit of separation with FDLE on Aug. 21, 1996, stating that DerDiarian had left the department voluntarily after being investigated for misconduct. On Nov. 13, 1996, the lawsuit said, the department amended the affidavit to say DerDiarian hadn't voluntarily left the force.

LeCouris could not comment on details of the lawsuit. He said that DerDiarian was terminated while in a probationary period.

"Everything was done by proper procedure and law," he said.

DerDiarian, who now lives in Spring Hill, worked for the department in 1996. He said in the lawsuit he has been denied employment with at least 10 police departments within Florida because of the reports filed about him.

In 1999, DerDiarian filed a civil rights suit against Tarpon Springs and the Police Department, said Jim Yacavone, an attorney representing the city. The court dismissed the suit.

The first lawsuit noted that DerDiarian was a probationary officer at the time he was terminated, Yacavone said. The second suit does not.

Yacavone has filed a motion to dismiss, and he said he is confident that the U.S. District Court will dismiss most parts of the new lawsuit.

"He's probably entitled to a name-clearing hearing," Yacavone said. "My hope is that the court will throw out most of this."

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