BELLEAIR - Due to recent resignations from Belleair police personnel, Largo's department will provide law enforcement for the town.
In an e-mail to Largo City Manager Steve Stanton, Largo Police Chief Lester Aradi wrote, "The Town of Belleair has asked us to assist them on a temporary basis. We will take over the administration of law enforcement services for them while they conduct a search for a new police chief and a new second in command. This may take anywhere from two to four months. The remainder of their police department will remain intact and unchanged. They wish to retain their own police department and we will assist them in doing so."
Deputy Chief John Carroll of Largo will be the temporary administrative head of the Belleair department, which has 11 officers. Carroll will assess the needs of Belleair and run day to day operations. He will have an assistant from Largo as well as two other officers who will work with the Belleair force.
Alleged violations of departmental policies by Erv Hill, Belleair's police chief, a secret tape recording and Belleair officials calling for resignations are behind the need for Largo's help.
Hill, Belleair's chief for 3 ½ years, was asked to resign because he is named in a law suit that was recently made public.
In September, 2005, Hill allegedly illegally tape recorded a conversation between him and officer Terri L. Pettay. The subject of the conversation was Pettay's position that Hill violates departmental policies.
Hill reportedly wanted to know details of a conversation Pettay had with Belleair Town Manager Steve Cottrell.
Hill succeeded in getting Pettay to talk and took the tape to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, requesting an internal investigation of the Belleair department.
Pettay, a 21 year veteran of Belleair's force was unaware Hill was taping her, which is unlawful when consent from all parties isn't given or not court ordered.
When Pettay learned of the tape's existence, she wanted to hear it before being interviewed by the Sheriff's Office. The sheriff declined her request to review the tape.
Pettay then filed a lawsuit claiming she had a right to review it. In addition, she petitioned Circuit Court Judge Walt Logan to seal the civil lawsuit and because the tape is evidence in an ongoing internal affairs investigation, it was granted.
According to some reports, a settlement in the matter has been reached with all allegations against Pettay dropped, but the sheriff's internal affairs case is continuing.
Pettay has not been asked to resign by the town of Belleair. But Hill's second-in-command, Lt. David Keefe, was asked to resign as was Belleair's police administrative supervisor JoAnne Fishback.
Attempts to reach Cottrell for comment were unsuccessful.
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