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    Deputy must stop drinking to keep job

    By CHRIS TISCH
    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published November 30, 2001

    LARGO -- A Pinellas sheriff's deputy who has admitted to parenting, driving and even coming to work drunk may keep his job if he signs a contract in which he vows never to drink again.

    Deputy John F. Seabol could have been fired after an administrative investigation found he had a severe drinking problem. Instead, an administrative review board has recommended that Sheriff Everett Rice suspend Seabol without pay for 15 days and require him to sign the contract.

    "If he consumes any alcohol, he will, according to the contract, be terminated immediately," said Sgt. Tim Pelella, who investigated Seabol. "He admitted to having a problem, and the sheriff's office is giving him a chance to rectify it."

    Rice has yet to approve the board's recommendation, and Seabol hasn't yet signed the contract.

    If the recommendation goes through and Seabol signs, he will be subject to random alcohol tests. He also will be required to attend alcohol counseling, which he has been doing since the internal investigation started in August.

    Seabol, an 11-year sheriff's office veteran, came under investigation Aug. 2 after allegations surfaced that he had abused one of his children. Seabol denied abusing his child and the charge was never substantiated; but child protection investigators learned that Seabol drank heavily around his children.

    "He does drink when the children are in his care and . . . he had drank when the children were in the car with him," Child Protection Investigations supervisor Angela Tepfer told administrative investigators, according to an internal affairs report.

    "He would be intoxicated," she added. "Through the interviews it was determined he would pass out. When he did drink, he became angry, yelled at the kids more. . . . He would wake up late in the morning, so the children would be outside unsupervised."

    Seabol, who is divorced and saw his children, who are both younger than 15, every other weekend, also drove them to the Sunshine Speedway after drinking, the report says.

    While the abuse charges were investigated, Seabol was placed on administrative leave with pay. He was brought off leave Aug. 22 and put on light duty at the sheriff's office's north district in Dunedin, where he worked at the front desk.

    Seabol told investigators at that time that he was getting help through employee assistance program counseling. Though Seabol told investigators he was no longer drinking, he left a voice mail for investigators on Sept. 17 in which he sounded drunk, the report says.

    On the night of Oct. 1, investigators went to the north district front desk where Seabol was working. Seabol appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, according to the report. He first denied drinking, then he admitted to having one beer that morning.

    Investigators had him take two breath tests. One showed his blood alcohol level was .139, the second showed .146. Under Florida law, someone is legally drunk if their blood alcohol level is .08 or above. Seabol was taken home and placed back on administrative leave with pay.

    Later, when the investigation was coming to a close, Seabol admitted he drank a 12-pack of beer that day, went to bed at 3:30 p.m., then came to work.

    While investigating Seabol, deputies also found other incidents in which alcohol was a destructive force in his life and career, including one when Seabol drove up on a severe traffic crash on U.S. 19, then honked incessantly while traffic was blocked and Florida Highway Patrol Troopers investigated.

    Annoyed, troopers confronted Seabol and noticed he smelled of booze. After seeing his sheriff's star in his wallet, troopers called a sheriff's office supervisor. Cpl. Charles Vickers decided to have another deputy drive Seabol home, even though Vickers thought Seabol's blood alcohol level was probably about twice the legal limit.

    Seabol argued with Vickers and said he was okay to drive even though he was unsteady on his feet, had slurred speech and bloodshot eyes, a report says.

    Despite Seabol's alcohol history, his children described him as a wonderful father, as did people who know him, investigators said. Investigators eventually decided he would not be charged criminally with any form of child abuse or neglect.

    In a final interview with investigators, Seabol firmly acknowledged his past problems and pledged to get better, according to the report.

    "I'm a dedicated employee. I love the job and I want help," he said. "I want to be a deputy sheriff."

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