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Police academy report cites conflicts among staff

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Published:   |   Updated: July 25, 2014 at 09:38 AM

— An internal review of Pasco-Hernando State College’s law enforcement academy revealed “a pervasive atmosphere of conflict and distrust,” particularly between two instructor coordinators, according to a copy released Thursday by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.

“I would have to agree that without a major change in attitude among (the instructor coordinators and their supervisor) and also a greater focus on excellence, it will be difficult to achieve unit harmony,” wrote Ken Burdzinski, the college’s vice president of administration and finance, who conducted the review.

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, long critical of the academy, filed a public records request with the college to obtain the review, which comes as the college and the sheriff’s office are negotiating an interlocal agreement on the academy’s operation.

“This document by PHSC’s administration confirms our concerns that we have been expressing to the (college) trustees,” Nocco said in a prepared statement. “As we hope to create an agreement, we need to make sure policies are in place to address these important issues.”

Burdzinski’s five-page review, dated July 2, focused on the uneasy working relationship between instructor coordinators Patricia Maxwell and Kyle Hughes, as well as Charlie May, director of the college’s public service programs.

Maxwell, who came to work for the college just four months ago, was dismissed last week because of failure to meet the expectations of her position, PHSC spokeswoman Lucy Miller said Thursday.

Maxwell’s 90-day probationary status had been extended 30 days after her “decision-making abilities among other evaluation criteria were called into question,” the review said.

During separate interviews with Burdzinski, Hughes said there was a “complete collapse of any verbal communication between himself and Ms. Maxwell,” while Maxwell spoke of a “hostile environment” in the workplace and said she “feels like the ‘good ole boy’ network is keeping her on the outside.”

At least part of the problem, Burdzinski wrote, may have stemmed from the fact that May and Maxwell were both new to their jobs, having been hired in March, while Hughes was already on staff. Maxwell complained that when she asked May a question, Hughes “jumps in and responds” while May remains silent.

“Mr. May confirmed to me that he relies heavily on Mr. Hughes and also admitted that he favors Mr. Hughes,” Burdzinski wrote.

The dependence on Hughes could result in May “being more tolerant or more lenient in addressing issues related to Mr. Hughes,” Burdzinski wrote.

Burdzinski’s comments indicate he was not optimistic about his findings.

“Accomplishing an exchange of ideas requires a level of communication, trust and respect that currently only exists among some but not all of the (public services program) staff,” he wrote.

Miller reported that the college has taken several steps to address the problems, in some cases acting even before Burdzinski submitted the review to PHSC President Katherine Johnson.

Among those steps:

• College administrators met with the academy staff to discuss the issues and review college policies and procedures, and will continue to monitor the environment and seek ways to improve communication.

•May has been receiving professional guidance through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and through academy directors at other colleges.

•More frequent meetings with academy staff members are in place, ensuring that communication remains open and issues are addressed immediately.

•The academy staff will receive additional oversight by the college’s vice president of instruction, and the dean of workforce development will provide additional on-site administrative support.

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