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Panel: Punish 3 police officers
By JANE MEINHARDT
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2000
LARGO -- A panel of police supervisors on Thursday recommended written reprimands, one of the lowest levels of discipline, for three Largo officers who violated department policies in the Explorer scandal.
The recommendation is the first step in the disciplinary process. Police Chief Jerry Bloechle will make the final decision.
Possible discipline for the officers' misconduct ranges from a reprimand to dismissal.
The Largo police Disciplinary Review Board will review the recommendation next week. The panel includes a captain, a lieutenant, a sergeant, an investigator and a civilian.
The board, which may call witnesses during its review, will then make a recommendation to Bloechle, who was on vacation Thursday and unavailable for comment.
A six-week internal affairs investigation into allegations that some past and current Largo officers had improper relationships with Explorers began in late March. The Explorer program, sponsored by the Boy Scouts, provides on-the-job training for youths 14 to 21 years old.
In a report released May 5, investigators found three Largo officers had sex with female Explorers in the early 1990s.
The investigation also found that two current officers, who were formerly advisers to the Explorer post, did not report rumors about improper behavior to supervisors. One of the two, Sgt. Steve LoRicco, resigned earlier this month.
Bloechle, Capt. John Carroll, Lt. Glen Smith and Sgt. Ward Dunevant conducted the chain-of-command meeting that resulted in the written reprimand recommendation for Officer Karl Gracy, Sgt. Scott Dorflein and Sgt. Melanie Holley.
Gracy admitted to investigators that he had consensual sex off-duty in 1992 with an Explorer who was 18 or older. At that time, written department policies prohibiting such relationships with Explorers did not exist.
Instead, investigators concluded Gracy violated policies prohibiting conduct unbecoming an employee or conduct that taints the image of the department.
Dorflein denied having sex with the same Explorer, but admitted she had gone to his apartment once. Investigators determined he violated the same misconduct policies as Gracy.
Holley faces discipline because investigators concluded she had information and knowledge of rumors of improper sexual relationships involving Explorers, but did not report the information to supervisors.
The scandal has taken a toll on the department. Bloechle fired the department spokesman, Mac Williams, because of the way he handled the media during the Explorer situation. Last week, the chief announced he will retire in October.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.