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Inquiry: Workers abused office

Two Tarpon Springs code enforcement employees are accused of harassment and put on administrative leave.

By KATHERINE GAZELLA

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2000


TARPON SPRINGS -- Two city code enforcement employees have been placed on paid administrative leave and accused of using their positions to harass the management of an apartment complex.

An investigation by the Tarpon Springs Police Department found that James Schroeder, the city's code enforcement officer, and Maria Greshay, a code enforcement clerk, harassed managers of Cornerstone Apartments. The harassment began after the complex threatened to evict Greshay from her apartment there.

The code enforcement activity against Cornerstone "clearly and markedly increased" after that, police documents say. The documents also state that Schroeder "is clearly incompetent in his duties as code enforcement officer."

In police memos, Schroeder and Greshay are cited with official misconduct, falsifying official city documents and deception in administrative interviews. Police Capt. Robert Kochen has recommended that they be fired.

Police Chief Mark LeCouris, who supervises the two employees, is holding pre-disciplinary hearings with Schroeder and Greshay this week. He will decide whether to fire them after the hearings, but no earlier than Monday, he said.

If they are fired, Schroeder, 48, and Greshay, also 48, could file appeals. There is a lengthy appeal process, the final stage of which is an appeal before the city Civil Service Board, LeCouris said.

Schroeder and Greshay did not want to comment for this story.

According to police records, Greshay was living at Cornerstone Apartments, off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, in 1999. She paid her rent under special arrangements that allowed her to make payments throughout the month instead of in a lump sum.

When new management took over in August, Greshay was no longer allowed to spread out her monthly rent payment, records show. She received a notice on Aug. 10 that told her to pay her rent within three days or she would be evicted. She paid the rent.

A few days later, records show, Greshay, in her capacity as a code enforcement clerk, called apartment managers with a list of five code violations they needed to correct. Throughout the next two months, Greshay and Schroeder told manager Shelley Goulet about several violations, including problems with fence permits, signs and flags, police records show.

In late September, the complex again began eviction proceedings against Greshay for failure to pay rent. On Oct. 21, records show, the eviction was completed.

Shortly after that, Greshay told Goulet the complex needed permits for installing playground equipment, according to information Goulet gave police. The code enforcement department later cited the complex for a chainlink fence violation.

During interviews with police investigators, Greshay and Schroeder gave inconsistent and differing accounts of what happened.

At times during an interview, Greshay said she didn't make calls to Cornerstone because she didn't want the management to think she was "picking on them." She said she referred complaints about the property to Schroeder. At other times, she said she made calls to the apartment management.

Greshay and Schroeder also gave differing accounts about who initiated complaints against Cornerstone, as well as the amount of involvement Greshay had in Cornerstone cases.

The police officers who investigated the case determined that Greshay and Schroeder knowingly falsified city documents by omitting Greshay's name as the complainant for some of the violations.

Police records also show that another apartment complex next to Cornerstone had similar signs and flag poles but was not cited.

In the past, the apartment complex -- once known as Paces -- was cited for other code enforcement violations, many of them related to siding on the apartments.

Schroeder, who has worked for the city in some capacity since the early 1990s, received satisfactory evaluations. Then-City Manager Costa Vatikiotis wrote in two evaluations that Schroeder needed to create a plan for code enforcement in the city, and one evaluation said he needed to be more productive. In 1998, police Sgt. Tom Hill wrote in a memo that Schroeder failed to follow orders to start inspections by 9:30 a.m.

Greshay, who started as a part-time employee in 1996, also had satisfactory evaluations. In 1998, LeCouris approved Greshay's promotion to code enforcement clerk, noting that "her performance and understanding of the job is outstanding."

-- Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report. Katherine Gazella covers Tarpon Springs for the Times. She can be reached by e-mail at gazella@sptimes.com or by phone at (727) 445-4182.

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