BROOKSVILLE (FOX 13) - The turmoil surrounding the Brooksville Police Department added another layer this week when the city manager fired Chief George Turner.
Brooksville City Manager Mark Kutney said Turner's leadership had been eroding for some time.
"There were a number of factors over the last four months," Kutney told FOX 13. "He just was not practicing the kind of leadership that I felt he needed to lead his department and for the city's best interests."
Some city leaders, including Kutney, feel Turner, who served as chief for 10 years, had not been cooperative during the city's attempts to negotiate with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office to take over policing duties of Brooksville as a cost-cutting measure. The move would dissolve the police department.
Kutney, however, said the breaking point came this week. In Turner's termination letter, Kutney wrote the former chief "revealed confidential criminal intelligence information or criminal investigative information that revealed personal identifying information of a witness of a murder" to a news organization.
"You need to have a police chief and a police department and a state attorney working together such as that, so that was a grave concern because that was the same pattern of behavior," Kutney said.
The city manager wrote to Turner that revealing this particular sensitive information could have violated the law. The Hernando County State Attorney's office declined to comment.
Brooksville City Councilwoman Natalie Kahler said Turner will be missed.
"He provided extraordinary leadership over the last ten years," she said. "He has created one of the best agencies in the state. Our crime-solve rate is almost double the national average."
The city council began looking at ways to save in the budget last July. Some of them, along with Kutney, decided eliminating the Brooksville Police Department would save the city $2.5 million.
Kahler, however, has a different perspective.
She believes, while the move would save the city, taxpayers instead are paying the same amount to the county, while getting less in return.
"We are going to cut our services to the people in half and I have not seen anybody explain to me yet how that's safe," she said.
The majority of the council disagrees and Kutney continues to work with the sheriff to try to come to an agreement. The city manager said part of the deal would include the sheriff hiring as many Brooksville police officers as possible.
"We're not going out of the police business, it's simply a different way of delivering law enforcement services," Kutney said.
In a statement to FOX 13, Turner said, "I was given two letters at 5 p.m. Wednesday night: resign or be terminated. I didn't resign. The city has been on a witch hunt for months. I have always taken the high road and will continue to do so. I will be pursuing my legal options. I have a deep concern for the well-being of the staff at the police department and residents of the city."