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City official backs decision of police chief to fire officer

By Staff | Jan 30, 2009

Cape Coral City Manager Terry Stewart will uphold Chief of Police Rob Petrovich’s decision to terminate an officer for inappropriate conduct, he said Thursday.
Union representatives said they will appeal the city’s decision by bringing the matter to arbitration.
Nine-year officer Curt Suskevich and his wife, Christine Suskevich, were charged with possession of marijuana after Christine reportedly fired Suskevich’s handgun at a wall in their Key West vacation home while intoxicated and police responded.
Christine was found guilty in a no-jury trial on the marijuana charge as well as firing a handgun under the influence of alcohol and possession of narcotic equipment, according to Monroe County court records.
The possession charge was dropped against Suskevich, who said he was unaware the contraband was in the residence. His wife also told investigators Suskevich was unaware of the drug’s presence.
However, Suskevich was terminated for “conduct unbecoming of an officer” following an internal investigation of the incident, during which Petrovich determined Suskevich was aware of his wife’s use of marijuana yet did nothing to stop the illegal activity.
Stewart upheld Petrovich’s decision Thursday.
“I have carefully reviewed the information supporting Chief Petrovich’s termination decision and find his action to be supported by the facts and further, that it was appropriate and with full just cause,” Stewart wrote in a memorandum outlining his decision.
Suskevich appealed his termination Jan. 14 through the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 33.
Lodge President Detective Kurtis Grau said the union will now take the matter to arbitration.
“The Florida State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police will be filing a notice of intent to take this matter to arbitration through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service as we do not agree with the city manager’s decision,” Grau said in an e-mail Thursday.
A grievance form filed on behalf of Suskevich states that “(Suskevich) was improperly terminated without just cause, and without the principals of progressive discipline, including excessive punishment and unequal treatment.”
Stewart denied the basis of the grievance.
“There are incidents for which the severity of the act and the impact of that action will warrant application of the most severe form of corrective action such as in this particular case,” Stewart’s memo states.
Suskevich has 10 days to file an intent to arbitrate with the city’s Human Resources Director.
Following the final hearing of arbitration, the arbitrator has 30 days to provide a written decision regarding the matter.