ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — A Pinellas County deputy was fired Monday after the sheriff’s office determined that he had violated the agency’s policies on sexual harassment and discrimination.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said Deputy Timothy Lafave, 48, was investigated for inappropriate conduct toward a new female coworker that began in April 2021. Lafave worked as a member of the Judicial Operations Bureau (JOB), Detention Court Squad.
According to the female coworker, Lafave would choose to be closer to her and stared at her during her two-week training period as a criminal justice specialist.
Other agency members also testified that Lafave would stare at the new agency member and described him as “weird” and “creepy” in his conversations with the female coworker. However, his conduct was not reported to the deputy’s supervisors by the woman or other coworkers.
The PCSO Administrative Investigation Division said that later that year, Lafave got tickets for him and his coworkers to go to a hockey game. At the request of another deputy, Lafave got a ticket for the female coworker.
On Oct. 18, 2022, Lafave approached the female deputy while she was conducting safety screenings at the Pinellas County Justice Center “and inappropriately placed his left
arm around her back and hugged her from the side,” the sheriff’s office said. He then asked her if she would still be attending the hockey game and left after the conversation.
The sheriff’s office said Lafave approached the female deputy again the following day and began touching her.
“Deputy Lafave again approached the female member from behind and placed both of his hands on the member’s shoulders and began to massage her shoulders,” the sheriff’s office said. “Deputy Lafave’s actions were unsolicited and unwanted by the female member. Deputy Lafave then transitioned to the member’s left side while keeping his right hand on her shoulder, then he leaned in and hugged her.”
According to the female coworker, she tried to get away from him while he kept trying to hug her. She said he called her “babe” during this interaction while discussing how to pay for the hockey ticket.
Another deputy observed Lafave’s misconduct with the female coworker and reported him to supervisors, which led to the investigation.
The sheriff’s office said the female coworker felt “uncomfortable” and “embarrassed” by Lafave’s misconduct. While the April incidents were not captured on camera, the October incidents were seen on the courthouse’s surveillance video.
Lafave admitted to the touching incidents, but he tried to say he was acting from a “fatherly standpoint” to “get a feel for her as a person, as a coworker” and make her “feel welcome,” according to the sheriff’s office.
“Deputy Lafave’s attempted justifications during the investigative interviews were lies in an effort to mitigate his misconduct,” a report said. “Deputy Lafave admitted during the final Administrative Review Board hearing that it was not appropriate or professional to physically touch a member in the manner that he did, and he admitted to violating agency policy.”
Following the Administrative Review Board’s decision, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri fired Lafave effective Jan. 23, 2023.