Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

District Adjusting Tack on Its Investigative Unit

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

District Adjusting Tack on Its Investigative Unit

Article excerpt

MANATEE: Proposed hire has both police and education experience

MANATEE COUNTY

School Superintendent Rick Mills is turning to a former Washington, D.C., police detective with recent experience examining school systems to head the investigative unit, a stark contrast with the district's previous approach -- intentionally hiring an educator with no law enforcement experience.

The school district's investigation department -- shut down amid an inquiry into groping allegations against Manatee High assistant football coach Rod Frazier -- has been empty since January, when the previous investigator abruptly transferred.

Troy Pumphrey, currently a senior investigator for the Florida High School Athletic Association, is poised to take over a department that has been much maligned since 2005, when it was created in response to a series of personnel complaints -- several involving alleged misconduct toward students -- that never made it to the downtown office.

Office of Professional Standards specialist Debra Horne's inquiry into the Frazier allegations froze after police began investigating earlier this year. Bradenton Police have since recommended that Frazier be charged with several counts of battery, and that Horne, former Manatee High Principal Bob Gagnon and assistant principals Gregg Faller and Matthew Kane be charged with non-reporting and lying to police.

As the district waits to see whether the State Attorney's Office will prosecute, Mills says the schools investigator will no longer report to the district's legal department. Instead, if Pumphrey is approved by the School Board on Monday, he will report directly to Mills.

"There needs to be a separation between legal and the investigations," Mills said. "You want them to act independently, and you need to eliminate any obstruction to that."

Pumphrey, 50, has earned a reputation as a straight-shooting, thorough investigator that will be counted on to bring stability to a department that has been criticized for unnecessary and drawn-out investigations.

His references include former Manatee superintendent Roger Dearing and transition team leader Bill Vogel. …

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