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Personnel missives

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 26, 2000


PINELLAS PARK -- City Manager Jerry Mudd told City Council members that he is very concerned about issues raised during the past "year or so" concerning the treatment of employees in the Pinellas Park Police Department. Mudd prepared a time line of "some of the alleged issues and events that I am aware of." This is Mudd's time line.

Oct. 27, 1999 -- Bill LauBach, executive director of the Pinellas County Police Benevolent Association, told the city's personnel department that female police officers were complaining of discriminatory practices.

Nov. 4 -- Police Officer Shirley Atherton Marsh filed state and federal complaints alleging sexual harassment and discrimination. Among her charges: A male sergeant told her, "We can't not hire women. We can't hire them and tell them they can't get pregnant. So, to discourage them from getting pregnant, we give them bad days off and bad shift hours."

Feb. 4, 2000 -- Marsh filed another complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that her original complaint had been posted on a bulletin board in the department as retaliation for her original complaint.

June 12 -- Police Officer Donna Saxer filed a complaint with the city's personnel director alleging she, too, had been discriminated against.

June 16 -- "A police sergeant was disciplined for reportedly telling a sexually explicit joke in the company of other Police Department employees, including at least one woman. The same sergeant later received counseling for having supposedly made sexually derogatory statements concerning women in a conversation with other Police Department employees, including at least one woman." After Monday's meeting, Mudd confirmed the man was Sgt. Michael Darroch, who this month was suspended for three days without pay for using racial epithets concerning Vietnamese people.

June 23 -- Saxer filed state and federal complaints alleging sex discrimination and harassment. Among Saxer's complaints: She was denied training and locked out of promotions because of she is a woman.

June 28 -- Marsh filed a third complaint with the EEOC alleging department officials were retaliating against her for her complaints by denying her reserve officer status when she left the department. She said she was the first officer ever to be denied a request to be a reserve officer.

July 6 -- Police Officer Cindy Martin became the third woman to file state and federal complaints alleging gender discrimination and harassment. Her allegations included a claim that she was not chosen to be a detective because she is a woman. She also claimed department leaders retaliated against her for speaking out against the poor treatment of women in the department.

July 14 -- Jane Clark of the city's personnel department, completed an inquiry into Saxer's claims of discrimination. Clark found no discrimination, but she did find that Darroch had used a racial epithet. That lead to his suspension without pay. Clark also recommended that an outside assessment be made because of remarks officers had made to her during the inquiry. Among those were "a fear of retaliation, removal from specialized assignments without justification and an intimidating leadership style."

July 14 -- Two male officers -- Charles Prichard and R.A. Cook -- filed grievances with the police union that the department's administration has a "hit list" of officers targeted for termination. Officers are on the list "based on their age, years of service and willingness to speak out against department practices."

July 18 -- Prichard wrote a letter to Mudd reiterating his charge that the department has a hit list.

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