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Police chief released from hospital

Chief Jerry Bloechle was admitted Wednesday with an irregular heartbeat. The condition was corrected, the Largo department reported Friday.

By JANE MEINHARDT

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 3, 2000


LARGO -- Police Chief Jerry Bloechle was released from a hospital Friday afternoon after being treated for heart problems.

Bloechle, 49, was admitted Wednesday to Largo Medical Center with an irregular heartbeat. He remained for testing and monitoring.

The condition was corrected, and he was released about 3 p.m. Friday, a Police Department spokeswoman said. It was unclear late Friday if Bloechle would return to work Monday, and he could not be reached.

City Manager Steve Stanton declined to comment.

Bloechle's illness comes as the Largo Police Department is embroiled in a scandal involving officers' relationships with members of the department's youth Explorer post.

Bloechle forced the department's spokesman, Mac Williams, to resign last week in lieu of being fired. Williams said the chief did not like the way Williams handled the media during an investigation into the Explorer situation.

Sgt. Steve LoRicco, a 19-year veteran facing possible discipline, also resigned last week. In the early 1990s, he was an adviser for the Explorers, a Boy Scout program that provides on-the-job training for youths 14 to 21, and allegedly failed to report rumors about sexual relationships between officers and Explorers.

LoRicco was not involved in any relationship with an Explorer, but Bloechle concluded he knew or should have known about the rumors. LoRicco was one of four Largo officers singled out for possible disciplinary action in a report issued after the six-week investigation was completed May 5.

At a news conference announcing the findings, Bloechle faced a barrage of questions, including queries about why he did not thoroughly investigate allegations about officers and Explorers that emerged in late 1998.

Officer John Ferraro, who shot himself in December 1998, left a suicide note alleging officers and Explorers had sexual relationships. Bloechle acknowledged that he erred by not adequately investigating Ferraro's allegations.

Still unresolved is the question about what, if any, discipline Bloechle plans for three other officers implicated in the investigation.

Officer Karl Gracy admitted having sex with an Explorer. Sgt. Scott Doerflein told investigators the same Explorer came to his apartment, although he denied having sex with her.

Sgt. Melanie Holley, a former post adviser, faces possible discipline because Bloechle determined that she, too, knew or should have known about improper relationships and did not report facts or rumors to supervisors.

Bloechle was appointed police chief in July 1997. He replaced Richard Kistner, who resigned after it was learned that he interfered in a criminal investigation involving his 15-year-old son.

-- Times staff writer Eric Stirgus contributed to this report.

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