Port St. Lucie, police critic settles on punishment issue Colleen Mastony, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer December 1, 2000 Friday MARTIN-ST. LUCIE EDITION Copyright 2000 Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc. The Palm Beach Post December 1, 2000 Friday MARTIN-ST. LUCIE EDITION Terms and Conditions Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved. (PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.) -- After hearing 16 hours of testimony on Dec. 5, a city appeals board didn't get a chance to decide the appropriate discipline for a top police administrator who threatened to topple the police chief.
Just as the board was about to issue a decision, attorneys for the city and former police Administrator Anthony Valicenti said they could settle the matter themselves.
Valicenti, who was fired in July for the comments he made following his son's arrest, agreed to a 15-day suspension without pay. He will not return to the department, however, because his position had been eliminated in budget cuts since his dismissal. Valicenti also agreed not to seek future employment with the department.
By dropping its dismissal of Valicenti, the city allowed him to collect thousands of dollars owed to him for accrued sick leave. He wouldn't have gotten that pay if he had been fired, according to Valicenti's attorney David B. Earle.
"It's been a very traumatic experience for Mr. Valicenti and his family," Earle said. "They are very appreciative that the board recognized that (the punishment) was too severe." Though he declined to comment to a reporter, Valicenti told a friend in the audience that he was satisfied with the outcome.
On the other side of the aisle, Chief John Skinner said, "I'm satisfied from the perspective that the management of the police department had the opportunity to get their side told."
In the hour before they were cut short, the appeals board unanimously upheld the insubordination charge against Valicenti. Four of the five members, however, criticized the decision by Skinner and City Manager Don Cooper to dismiss Valicenti, calling it too harsh in light of Valicenti's good record for more than 10 years.
The board also urged the department to set up a system that would allow the rank-and-file to voice complaints without fear of retaliation.
The whole matter was touched off when - after the May 12 arrest of his son on battery charges - Valicenti stated publicly that he was "scared of his own department," and told police administrators that he was going to discredit the department and "take out" Skinner and Assistant Chief Brian Reuther.
The incident sparked bitter infighting and a swirl of allegations that led to an investigation by the Federal Department of Law Enforcement, an eventual reorganization of the department and the elimination of two management positions.
After he was put on paid leave pending the outcome of the internal investigation, Valicenti's $61,000-a-year position was one of two jobs eliminated in budget cuts ordered by city council members.