DADE CITY, Florida -- Talk about getting caught with your pants down; for some reason, when we went to ask Pasco County Property Appraiser Mike Wells why he doesn't have to put in 40 hours a week at the office, he answered his door in his boxers.
"You know my work never ends," said Wells about his $137,000 a year job. But while the work may never end, Wells often ends his day at the office well before quitting time.
While Wells told us he wasn't feeling well the day we stopped by, he readily admits it's not unusual for him to leave early and come home. He maintained he's always working despite the fact that his county car has been seen in his driveway by 1 p.m. on most days in the past several weeks.
"This is not an 8 to 5 job and I have a well-run office," he said.
Pasco County has a tradition of constitutional officers not showing up for work. You might recall the story we did about Clerk of Court Jed Pitman we did a couple of years ago, where he admitted he only showed up once every 44 days.
But this time, it's different.
Wells usually does show up either at the Dade City office or the New Port Richey office almost every day, but he admitted he usually leaves early and rarely works 40 hours a week in either of the offices.
That irritated retired Pasco taxpayer Lee Pagillo, who doesn't like the fact that Wells comes and goes as he pleases. "I'm offended by it. I'm offended and I'm appalled. I know when I worked, I was required to work certain hours and I was required to be there, and if I didn't I had to be accountable. And I think someone who has a position should be accountable for their time," said Pagillo.
Wells maintained he is the most accessible elected official in Pasco County. He says there is another reason he is often out of the office and not always working on official duties, even though he is getting paid to. "I've been on the campaign trial for six months now and I have an extraordinary staff."
But that brought up one other problem -- pictures of Wells' Pasco County car at after-hour political events, and he has no problem with it. "Part of my job is to get re-elected and there are a lot of people in this county that want me re-elected, and it's part of my job to do that."
Pagillo is not on that list. "I'm a taxpayer and I'm interested in your opponent winning."
Wells had no justification for using a county car and gas for a re-election campaign for a $137,000 a year job that allows him to go home for the day early while his staff holds down the fort at the property appraiser's office.
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