Editor’s Note: James McLynas originally published the article below on his blog, mclynas4sheriff.com.
Every year, without fail, you will see Sheriff Robert Gualtieri in front of County Commissioners with hat in hand begging for more money. He uses his standard props of flow charts and graphs and of course a fair amount of scare tactics about the various crime epidemics sweeping Pinellas County. He will spin a tale of the evil weed designed to scare every senior citizen about the plague of drug addicted potheads that will attack them in their sleep. (all lies) He will ramble about the car theft epidemic being perpetrated by “those bad black youths in South St. Pete” to stoke those racial fears of white suburbia (and Ken Welch).
However, the truth and the reality is that crime is down all across America and it is way down here in Pinellas County too. Crime has been rapidly declining for over a decade, and it’s not because of what Sheriff Gualtieri, or any police department has been doing. Despite Sheriff Gualtieri’s plan to arrest or charge everyone he can, for anything they can, crime is still down, even with Gualtieri’s intentionally over inflated stats.
So where is all that money going Sheriff Gualtieri? Well nobody seems to really know because the Pinellas County Commission just rubber stamps whatever he says without any oversight at all. Half of them even donated to his re-election. So there is no real checks and balances and hundreds of millions of dollars ($300,000,000) is funneled into Sheriff Gualtieri’s pockets to dole out as he sees fit. Fancy new uniforms, luxury SUV’s, a huge over built state-of-the-art building that is 35% empty because it is too big, helicopters, fancy boats, Buick Lacrosse cop cars, a stash of army vehicles, robots, $350,000 Stingray tracking devices, you name it, it’s in the toy box. But Sheriff Gualtieri said these were all “critical needs”.
Sheriff Gualtieri has also been operating one of Florida’s most prolific theft rings using his troops to steal people’s cash and property through bogus civil asset forfeitures. In fact the FBI has even stated that police now steal more cash and property THAN ALL CRIMINAL ACTIVITY COMBINED!
Where do those millions of stolen dollars go? Nobody really knows, because Sheriff Gualtieri refuses to tell anyone and illegally ignores public record’s requests for the documents explaining how much was taken and where that money went. We do get an occasional glimpse here and there of where some of it may be going, into the pockets of Pinellas Sheriff’s employees.
As an example, Pinellas County Deputy George Steffen, 57, retired from the Pinellas Sheriff’s Office under the program and was literally handed a check for $570,847 through Florida’s Deferred Retirement Option Program. Steffen is also receiving a $8,970 monthly pension. If that isn’t bad enough, Gualtieri hired Steffen back, this time as an assistant chief deputy with another fat annual paycheck of $149,350. With Steffen’s $8,970 pension, and his new paycheck, that is almost $21,500 per month, or $258,000 per year or our tax money and he still gets to keep the $570,847 he was paid to quit.
In another example, Pinellas Deputy Dan Simovich collected $540,968 for agreeing to retire early. He also receives a $9,132 monthly pension and a short time later, he too was rehired in a new position earning a $155,000 annual salary. He now clears over $22,000 per month, or $268,000 annually ($128.50 per hour) working as a Pinellas County Deputy and he still gets to keep the $540,968 he got paid under false pretense for retiring to “help save the department money”.
Two PCSO Deputies, Simovich and Steffen get handed $1,111,815 in cash just for agreeing to retire, and then each get paid over a quarter million dollars a year when rehired. That’s almost two million dollars paid to just two PCSO deputies in little over a year with another $526,000 per year each year after that. TO JUST TWO DEPUTUIES!
On what planet is any cop legitimately worth that much money? They aren’t. This isn’t the NBA, and they don’t have that much talent. Does this sound like an agency in dire need of more resources as Sheriff Gualtieri stated to the people of Pinellas County year after year?
There is not one single person in Pinellas County that couldn’t think of a better way that these funds could have been spent other than to make two Sheriff’s deputies rich. This was a money grab by Sheriff Gualtieri and a payoff to keep Gualtieri’s dirty little secrets. Some say it was a payoff so neither man would run against him and unseat him for Sheriff using those very secrets.
And what about Sheriff Gualtieri himself? A few years ago he lived in a modest home in an upscale East Lake neighborhood. As far away from the urban areas of Pinellas County as he could, but still within its borders to deflect criticism. However, since then, Just like George Jefferson, Sheriff Gualtieri was “Movin On Up” to a deluxe mansion in the sky. So Sheriff, where did you say all that civil asset forfeiture money went?
You can’t tell me that Sheriff Gualtieri was handing out millions of our tax dollars to a few good buddies and loyal soldiers to buy their silence and not helping himself to a bit of the pie himself. These photos of the mansion Sheriff Gualtieri bought show just how far removed in geographical location (as well as mindset) he is from the average citizen of Pinellas County.
When you look at these actual pictures of Sheriff Gualtieri’s mansion, it is real clear that he can’t possibly relate to at least 85% of the people in Pinellas County. Is Sheriff Gualtieri being paid way too much or is he helping himself to some of the millions of dollars confiscated from the citizens of Pinellas County through bogus civil asset forfeiture or other thefts?
Either way, there is NO way that Sheriff Robert Gualtieri can possibly relate to the hundreds of thousands of people he sends his troops out to rob through fines, citations, arrests, court costs, fees, impound fees and the dozens of other methods that he uses to steal money from people that really can’t afford to have it stolen.
Sheriff Robert Gualtieri has no problem pulling people over and demanding they pay him $136 for a broken taillight bulb which is a natural occurrence and not a crime. Fining someone hundreds of dollars, and suspending their license because they have no insurance, BECAUSE THEY CAN’T AFFORD INSURANCE is something Sheriff Bob Gualtieri obviously can not relate to. Let them eat cake, right Bob?
Sheriff Gualtieri seems to have no problem slumming it down to Largo to rule over his army of revenue collectors that randomly pull people over and pick their pockets. He then drives his county paid luxury SUV with dark tinted windows back to the safety of his suburban mansion where he feels safe from the prying eyes of lowly citizens.
No wonder he has no problem violating his own chase policy and pulling over a black woman because she had the audacity of getting in front of his car at the red light and then violently attacking her and pulling her by the hair from her car and arresting her. She committed the crime of disrespecting his royal highness, King Bob.
But perhaps that mansion retreat is not as far away as he thinks it is. I hear rumors that future demonstrations are scheduled to head out to the street in front of his mansion. Similar protests were held in front of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s mansion to good effect. If you are a neighbor of Sheriff Robert Gualtieri and that made you feel a little safer, that may be changing when you hear “FIRE KILLER BOB” shouted through a megaphone a few dozen times.
It will be interesting to see how he feels about the problems he so readily has caused to others when they come home to roost. I guess he may soon experience just a touch of how uncomfortable he and his troops have made so many of the people he lords over feel. Maybe he will start driving one of those three huge MRAP military vehicles home to park in his driveway instead of his fancy County owned SUV.