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Largo sergeant demoted in harassment case

The loss of rank because of accusations of sexual harassment will cost the police officer prestige and pay.


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 26, 2000

LARGO -- Police Chief Jerry Bloechle has demoted a Largo sergeant accused of sexually harassing a volunteer by touching her and making a lewd gesture.

Sgt. Scott Doerflein, who was also disciplined in connection with the police Explorer scandal, will become a patrol officer. The demotion is one of the most severe penalties handed down in connection with several sex-related complaints involving officers this year.

In a memo to Doerflein on Tuesday, Bloechle said as a sergeant, he was responsible for enforcing the Police Department's standards of conduct, including prohibitions against sexual harassment.

"Your gesture directed toward a civilian employee was a deliberate and vile act, and is totally in contravention to the standards of this department and your duties and responsibilities of a supervisor," Bloechle wrote.

Doerflein could not be reached for comment.

Gina M. Mazzaro, a member of the department's Volunteers in Policing program, accused Doerflein May 1 of making unwelcome sexual advances. After an investigation, it was determined that Doerflein touched her hand, felt her hair and made an obscene sexual gesture.

An officer for eight years, Doerflein was suspended last month for three days for his misconduct related to a female member of the police Explorers, a Boy Scout program for youths 14 to 21.

In the early 1990s, he allowed the Explorer to visit him in his apartment. Doerflein denied having sex with her. Officer Karl Gracy was suspended for five days for having consensual sex with the same Explorer, who was 18 or older at the time.

Mazzaro was not the only female volunteer to complain about Doerflein. A report released in June by the city's personnel director says police administrators did not properly handle sexual harassment complaints from Nanalee Matthews, 64. She alleged Doerflein made improper comments to her about kissing. He later apologized to her.

Doerflein's demotion from sergeant to patrol officer costs prestige and money. In the fiscal year beginning in October, sergeants' pay will range from $40,800 to $54,500. Largo officers' base pay will be from $29,800 to $46,500.

"It could result in a considerable loss of pay," said Bill LauBach, director of the Police Benevolent Association. "It would not be inaccurate to say he would lose in the neighborhood of $5,000 a year in salary. He'll take a hit financially."

No decision has been made on whether the union will appeal Doerflein's discipline, LauBach said.

City Manager Steve Stanton, who said he played no role in determining Doerflein's penalty, concurred with Bloechle's decision.

"It's appropriate that there are consequences for misconduct," Stanton said. "There has been due diligence on the part of the chief, and I accept the judgment of the chief as correct and proper."

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