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Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 8 years ago

Chief's actions disputed

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

A public records request initiated by Southwest Police Benevolent Association Attorney Michael Krohn reveals that a Longboat Key police officer was reprimanded for looking at pornographic images on police-issued laptop computers during the course of an entire year, while another officer was sending text messages of a sexual nature to fellow police department employees.

Both officers are still employed by the Town of Longboat Key.

Krohn, who is defending former town police Officer Jessica Anderson in her upcoming Dec. 8 appeal of her Oct. 21 firing by Police Chief Al Hogle, asked for the last three years of any documented cases of misconduct among the police department staff in an effort to prove to Town Manager Bruce St. Denis that Anderson’s termination “was excessive and disparate in treatment.”

Anderson awakened a Key resident June 14 and told him to move his vehicle from the median, even though the vehicle was not creating a traffic hazard. Anderson did not give the man an opportunity to produce his driver’s license or move the vehicle before arresting him for resisting, obstructing and failure to obey a lawful command.

Krohn told The Longboat Observer that he believes Anderson was treated differently than other officers in the department.

“There are other officers in that agency who have done things that are terminable,” Krohn said.
Evidence that Krohn will most likely use in his hearing to prove that point is Officer Charles Erickson’s disciplinary measure.

Hogle issued Erickson an 84-hour suspension from work with no pay in January for using Longboat Key portable computers in patrol cars to access inappropriate Internet Web sites depicting sexually explicit images from Nov. 11, 2007, through Nov. 13, 2008, while he was on duty.

Erickson, who openly admitted to accessing the Web sites and to using poor judgment during shifts, downloaded 24 independent images on the computers.

The town’s Internet-access policy states that employees are not allowed to use the Internet for personal gain or to download material that is sexual in content.

Erickson, whose actions are considered a fireable offense, was told that if inappropriate Internet use was discovered on his computer again, he would be considered for termination.

Hogle defended his decision not to terminate Erickson last week, explaining that both the Erickson and Anderson cases were different.

Although it was the first record of misconduct for both Erickson and Anderson, Hogle said “there’s no comparison between the two cases.”

“Officer Anderson’s employment was terminated because she took away the rights of a Longboat Key citizen for what was not deemed a legitimate arrest,” Hogle said. “Officer Erickson’s case was a first-time offense that did not involve other citizens or violating someone’s constitutional rights.”

Hogle said his department looks at all issues when reviewing a case of misconduct.

“All of our cases of misconduct have always been reviewed in a fair fashion,” Hogle said.

Text message issues revealed
Krohn’s public records request also revealed a case of misconduct by Officer John Martin, who was sending text messages “of a sexual nature” to Anderson while she was still employed by the town.

Capt. Steve Mislyan issued a complaint of conduct report to Hogle dated July 8, in which he explains that Martin sent 20 text messages to dispatcher Sheila Pilato, in which he repeatedly asked Pilato to have Anderson call him.

When Mislyan questioned Anderson on duty, she explained that that she had been receiving text messages of a sexual nature from Martin for months, until he agreed to delete her phone number when she asked him to stop.

Both Pilato and Anderson said during questioning that they initially began texting Martin in a friendly manner, but both employees said Martin quickly began texting while he was off-duty, “asking for bra sizes and other innuendos.”

And, on July 27, former police officer Pati Beardsley, who was fired Oct. 15 for waving her handgun at motorists in Sarasota, reported to Human Resources Manager Lisa Silvertooth that Martin was harassing her for months with similar text messages.

E-mails between Hogle and Deputy Police Chief Martin Sharkey reveal that both chiefs had asked Martin to stop sending messages to Beardsley at her request as early as January 2009. But a July 9 e-mail from Sharkey to Hogle reveals that Sharkey reprimanded Martin again for sending messages to Beardsley and Anderson.

Martin never received any disciplinary measures from Hogle for the ongoing text-messaging incident.
Hogle said Martin’s actions were not considered a fireable offense and that he would only re-review the case if Anderson and Martin submitted the records for all the text messages that were sent between the two of them from their personal cell phones.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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