Fired deputies in Pinellas say politics influences discipline decisions

9:18 AM, Jul 20, 2012   |    comments
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Pinellas County, Florida -- Allegations of political retribution in the Pinellas Sheriff's Office have some deputies upset. 

Several Deputies who have been fired or forced to resign in the past few months feel their offenses are less serious infractions than one deputy with a questionable record, who continues to carry a badge and a gun.

The 10 News Investigators first told you about the problems with Deputy Paul Martin, which have some in the Sheriff's Office believing politics has everything to do with how discipline is handed out.

One former deputy told us it crushes morale. "Morale is the lowest I've ever seen it in my 20 plus years working at the sheriff's office."

The veteran deputy is talking about the way punishment is handed out. In the past few months four deputies were fired for what Sheriff Bob Gualtieri calls 'extreme loafing and idling' while on the job. Two others received suspensions for 'idling.'

Another was fired after being accused of 'trespassing' during a narcotics investigation and three more deputies who were also accused of 'trespassing' during narcotics investigation resigned.  

Another narcotics detective resigned because of questions raised about $200 payment made to a confidential informant. 

That's eleven deputies who have been fired, suspended or have resigned in the past three months.

"It's not even close to being fair," said one veteran deputy who was fired for loafing. 

He says when you look at those who have been fired or forced to resign, and compare them to Deputy Paul Martin, the subject of a 10 News Investigation, there is no consistency in the punishment.  

"It seems the sheriff is picking his incidents where he can choose to fire people, and then hand out discipline, and then run to the media and say 'look I'm cleaning this agency up.'"

Martin has been the target of several internal affairs investigations involving allegations ranging from domestic violence, false imprisonment and associating with a drug user, just to name a few. 

Martin denies all of the allegations despite the fact that the findings of the investigations were sustained by the sheriff's office. 

Many in the Sheriff's Office believe Martin should have been fired, a psychologist at one point said he was unfit for duty, yet, he still has a badge and a gun. 

Some are saying the reason Martin is still in law enforcement while eight other deputies have been forced out has everything to do with the contentious sheriff's race between Gualtieri and former Sheriff Everett Rice.

"You've got an interim sheriff who is taking it easy on people that he feels are supporting him, and throwing the book, so to speak, at people he doesn't feel are in his camp," said one former deputy.

Sheriff Gualtieri takes huge exception to that. 

"That's complete nonsense," Gualtieri says. Hemaintains that politics has no place in the disciplinary decisions, but many who no longer work for the Sheriff's Office say the fact that Paul Martin is still a Pinellas Deputy calls that into question. 

"The only explanation is that there is one brand of justice for somebody like that, and there's another brand of justice for something like we got fired for," said one former deputy.

 We left several messages for Deputy Martin over the last several days, but he did not return our calls.

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