TARPON SPRINGS — After an investigation into alleged gambling activity at the city-owned Tarpon Springs Golf Course resulted in zero charges, City Manager Mark LeCouris defended the handling of the process while condemning some local media outlets’ reporting on the issue.
“It all (began with) — and we’ve seen a lot of this lately — absolute misinformation and people making up the news,” LeCouris said during the March 18 city commission meeting.
Based on an email from a disgruntled former employee sent to the city, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office eventually opened an investigation earlier this year looking into gambling allegations and an improper raffle of golf clubs. That inquiry closed after no criminal activity was uncovered.
“The Pinellas State Attorney’s Office has advised that no criminal charges will be filed as a result of an investigation into alleged gambling activity involving (c)ity employees that manage the Tarpon Springs Municipal Golf Course,” stated a Tarpon Springs Police Department media release.
Initiating the entire process was the email sent to LeCouris and former golf course general manager Chuck Winship by a recently terminated golf shop employee, Ron Moxom, on Jan. 31.
During his comments at the March 18 meeting, LeCouris, who was the chief of police before being hired as city manager, emphatically defended the city and police department response.
“There was no overkill, there was no overreaction,” he said. “When you get a complaint from a former employee that insinuates the possibility of criminal action, you have to do a full investigation, no matter what you think from the start.
“But we had to have a thorough report or I guarantee you we would have been on the front pages of the newspaper that we tried to cover something up.”
The incidents attracted articles written since early March by outlets that included the Tampa Bay Times, Fox News, Golf Digest and The Golf Channel.
LeCouris also reported that Winship, who stepped down from his position, was not pressured to do so, and that the police department received undeserved criticism resulting from the process.
“Unfortunately the golf course manager resigned on his own,” LeCouris said. “It was not a forced resignation. He chose to leave, and that’s the truth of the matter.”
“It was not the police’s fault everything was blown out of proportion,” he said. “It was people trying to make news instead of reporting news and unfortunately it happened that way.”