|WCSO Issues and the Year Draws to a Close Nov. 2012 Wakulla Times|
WCSO LAW ENFORCEMENT ISSUES AND A LONG YEAR IS DRAWING TO A CLOSE
+ COMMISSION ON ETHICS
From time to time the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office is asked to respond to frivolous complaints from the public. Earlier this year we had to address one of these complaints. Crawfordville resident Hugh Taylor filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics over the naming of the WCSO facility after former Wakulla County Sheriff David F. Harvey.
As the county grew, so did the calls for law enforcement services and the need to address the Wakulla County Jail. Sheriff Harvey found a way for the expenses of the operation to fall on more than just Wakulla taxpayers as he wisely knew that local funding could be supplemented with jail bed rental money from other agencies.
The result has been a great working relationship with the federal government which pays to house their detainees and inmates at our jail while helping to pay for part of the cost of housing local inmates in Crawfordville.
In late March, the Commission on Ethics reviewed Taylor’s complaint to determine if any violation of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees took place. The action of the Ethics Commission was to swiftly dismiss the complaint.
Taylor alleged that your sheriff “corruptly used or attempted to use his or her official position or any property or resource which may be within his or her trust, or perform his or her official duties, to secure a special privilege, benefit or exemption for himself, herself or others.”
Corruptly is defined as “done with a wrongful intent and for the purpose of obtaining or compensating or receiving compensation for, any benefit resulting from some act or omission of a public servant which is inconsistent with the proper performance of his or her public duties.”
The Commission on Ethics concluded that, “The allegations are legally insufficient to indicate a possible violation of Florida Statutes.” The state found that there was no factual indication that I corruptly used this office to obtain a special privilege for myself, former Sheriff Harvey or anyone else.
Taylor’s complaint questioned the repair of the WCSO’s existing facility signage and the addition of the name, “David F. Harvey Criminal Justice Center.” Taylor’s contention was that Wakulla County Commissioners only approved a 22 inch by 18 inch plaque to honor our former sheriff.
The Commission on Ethics addressed the issue of the plaque as well. “The attachments to the complaint indicated that the county commission approved the naming of the complex in honor of former Sheriff Harvey and there is no indication that their approval of a small plaque to that effect precluded Respondent (Crum) from installing the same name on the facility’s existing signage, which the complaint materials indicated he did without using taxpayer money.”
The Ethics Commission report goes on to say that “Even if the complaint indicated use of taxpayer money, absent circumstances indicative of ‘corruption’ (which are not present in the complaint), it would be unlikely that such lettering as alleged would violate the statute.”
The complaint was motivated by the 2012 election campaign and was proven to be a complaint without merit in an effort to smear the good name and legacy of former Sheriff David Harvey and the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office.
While I am on the topic of the election campaign and smearing, it has been disappointing to see former disgruntled employees attempting to air their grievances with local media in an effort to influence the outcome of the vote for a new sheriff.
The sheriff’s office has always been open with all types of information as required by law. Some of the statements and allegations that have been made during the summer have been totally untrue and usually misleading. But we believe in the intelligence of Wakulla County voters to sift through the pile of information and determine what has merit and what can be used as fertilizer.
+ FDLE CRIME STATISTICS
The use of Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime statistics to allege that Wakulla County was a dangerous community with a high crime rate was more than just a little untrue and misleading. In fact Wakulla County is among the Top 22 safest counties in the state.
Wakulla County ranked 14th highest out of 67 counties for crime clearance in Florida in 2011 with a crime clearance rate of 39.1 percent. The state average for crime clearance in 2011 was 24.2 percent.
Wakulla County ranked 22nd best out of 67 counties in total index crime offenses per 100,000 population. Wakulla had 2,723.7 offenses per 100,000 population. Florida’s average is 4,070.2 offenses per 100,000 population.
Of the 21 Florida counties that ranked with fewer offenses per 100,000 population, only 11 of the counties had a higher crime clearance than Wakulla County. Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office is the only law enforcement agency that makes house calls in the community.
+ OPERATIONAL AUDIT
Former Sheriff David Harvey supported an Operational Audit way back in May 2008 when he wrote the Wakulla County Commission and asked the board to support the idea. The WCSO is subject to annual audits by the county’s auditor.
I wholeheartedly agree with Sheriff Harvey. The down side of the Operational Audit is that it is very expensive. My staff has spoken to the Auditor General’s office about an Operational Audit. They responded by stating, “We have not performed an operational audit of a Florida sheriff’s office in the past 10 years and it would be impossible for me to estimate the cost at this time. The cost of an audit largely depends on the scope of the audit (the range of activities and transactions included in the audit as well as the time period), as well as the audit staff assigned to the audit and any necessary travel costs.”
Based on the cost of Certified Public Accounts and their hourly fees, we would estimate an Operational Audit from $40,000 to $70,000 just for the sheriff’s office.
+ ACTIVITIES AND INVESTIGATIONS
We have had a number of interesting activities and investigations at the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office during the past weeks. Here are just a few of them in case you may have missed them.
A search warrant was served at his home where marijuana, cocaine and weapons were discovered. As a convicted felon, the suspect was not supposed to possess any weapons. A weapon was found with the serial number scratched off.
Lt. Dale Evans took part in the Wakulla Breastfeeding Awareness group meeting to provide the young ladies with information about car seat safety, demonstrate how to safely attach a car seat to their vehicles and he also gave away a new car seat to a member of the support group who needed a new seat but did not have the funds to purchase one right away.
The WCSO took part in National Drug Take Back Day in Wakulla County and collected 24 pounds of unused and unwanted prescription drugs from members of the community. Detective Derek Lawhon was in Wakulla Station, Deputy Mike Crum was in Panacea and Deputy Stephen Simmons was in Crawfordville for four hours of their day collecting unwanted medications for proper disposal. The WCSO also has a disposal bin in our lobby which is available 24 hours a day-seven days a week for those who need to dispose of old drugs.
A Florida Department of Transportation grant provided funding for two DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols during the fall. The goal of the checkpoint and patrols is to get impaired drivers off the road. The safety activity was well received by the community as most motorists are very grateful that the sheriff’s office is on the road attempting to make it safer for all drivers and their families.
The valuable information is gathered to give us the best information to conduct traffic enforcement on the roads. The Speed Spies clocked one motorist traveling 92 miles per hour on one residential road in Crawfordville and 85 miles per hour on another Crawfordville road.
Several members of the agency were privileged to be able to watch Sgt. Ronald Mitchell and K-9 Gunny accept the Jimmy Ryce K-9 Trailing Team of the Year Award from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Tallahassee. The recognition came as part of Missing Children’s Day at the Capitol. Sgt. Mitchell and Gunny were recognized for their efforts in safely locating a missing child in the Wakulla Beach area in October 2011. Sgt Mitchell received a nice award from Governor Rick Scott and Gunny received bones with meat still on them.
The WCSO Criminal Investigations Division made an arrest of a Crawfordville man in connection with a child pornography case. The subject was involved in downloading images of pre-pubescent children involved in sexual activity on his computer. We were assisted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement with this investigation.
Detectives arrested an Apalachicola man in connection with a drug prescription fraud attempt at Wal-Mart. The man ran from deputies after Wal-Mart pharmacy staff realized that the subject was attempting to submit a fraudulent prescription. WCSO deputies caught their suspect on U.S. Highway 319 south of Crawfordville. During the events of the arrest one of our deputies was nearly injured when the suspect sped away from Wal-Mart with the deputy’s arm still inside his vehicle. Fortunately, the deputy was not injured in the incident.
WCSO Deputy Billy Metcalf and Sopchoppy resident Billy Raker were recognized for their fast action and reaction time to assist an elderly woman who was experiencing medical distress after nearly being struck by a down tree and power line near Sopchoppy.
I presented plaques to these two caring individuals at the Wakulla County Commission meeting earlier this fall. Deputy Metcalf used an AED Heart Defibrillator to keep the woman alive until medical personnel could transport her to Tallahassee.
As I get into my final weeks as Wakulla County Sheriff, I want to thank everyone for the great support and encouragement I have received as I served my 15 months in office. I have always wanted to prove that Governor Rick Scott was correct in his selection of me as interim sheriff.
We are not far from the 2012 holiday season so I want to wish everyone who served in our military a thank you for your service as we approach Veterans Day on Nov. 11. Enjoy a very Happy Thanksgiving with family and friends on Nov. 22 and get ready for the Christmas holidays and holy days in December. God Bless Everyone!