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Work environment of bailiffs investigated

By JANE MEINHARDT

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2000


LARGO -- The supervisor of Pinellas County court bailiffs has been reprimanded and transferred after an investigation into complaints about a hostile work environment.

Records show that sheriff's Lt. John Bocchichio was reprimanded April 19 for misconduct and transferred from court security to the court-processing division, which handles legal documents. Discipline for such misconduct ranges from a reprimand to three days' suspension.

A sheriff's employee for 24 years, Bocchichio could not be reached Wednesday.

The investigation began in November after Clearwater lawyer Robert G. Walker complained about misconduct on behalf of his client, bailiff Jane Johnson.

Johnson alleged that a sergeant, who retired shortly after the investigation began, made inappropriate and offensive comments that she reported to Bocchichio. The sergeant was counseled in March 1998, but the misconduct continued, records showed.

As a result of her complaints, Johnson said, she was labeled a troublemaker, given extended training and treated unfairly in work assignments.

Some other bailiffs interviewed told investigators they, too, had been offended by comments and that Johnson was treated more harshly than others during training.

They also said a "good ol' boy" system was operating, with minorities receiving different treatment in assignments and schedules, records show.

An internal investigation also concluded that Bocchichio failed to take appropriate action in 1998 and 1999 when dealing with subordinates and complaints about misconduct.

According to the investigation, this resulted in a hostile work environment by allowing unwelcome conversations, demands and suggestions that were sex-, race- and gender-oriented.

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