Here's a lesson for government employees: If you're found slacking, not only can it be really embarrassing when taxpayers find out, it may land you in the unemployment line.
At least that's what happened in a Florida case involving six lawmen in the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office; their names were published in the media after they allegedly were discovered "idling and loafing" for hours while on the job, West Palm Beach TV station WPTV reports. One admitted watching a movie while on duty.
Four of the law enforcement officers, all in their early 40s, were fired. The investigation purportedly revealed that three deputies each spent hundreds of hours loafing, while a sergeant failed to sufficiently supervise two others and was idle while on duty. Two other officers, also in their 40s, were suspended for up to two days for lesser offenses.
The extent to which the officers went in order to goof off is rather astonishing, according to the reports. A six-month investigation by the department showed that some of the officers intentionally hid from supervisors, concealed their police cars, disconnected their GPS units and left assigned areas.
More egregiously, however, the officers were accused of failing to provide law enforcement for hours at a time, though they did respond to calls if dispatched, according to an account of the investigation provided by Sheriff Bob Gualtieri (pictured above).
By failing to perform their duties, Gualtieri said, the loafing sheriff's deputies cost taxpayers nearly $25,000 during the six months -- July 1 through Dec. 31 -- that the investigation took place.
"We believe our findings are a snapshot of what was going on for a longer period of time, Gualtieri said. "This is behavior that will not be tolerated, and they are being held accountable."
Some Fired Officers Cry Foul
Responding to the accusations of deputies loafing and idling in their cars, Sgt. Christopher Metro told St. Petersburg TV station WTSP, "Part of being a good deputy on patrol is watching and observing."
He also claimed that Gualtieri's crackdown was nothing more than an election-year witch hunt. Metro supports Everett Rice, Gualtieri's opponent in an upcoming primary election. That, he added, "doesn't mean I'm not loyal to the sheriff's office." Some of the other fired deputies are also said to support Rice.
For his part, the Sheriff Gualtieri said there was no truth to the accusation that the firings and suspensions were politically motivated, adding, "It's offensive, actually."
The following are the names of the terminated deputies and the sergeant, along with a summary of the charges (via the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office):
Deputy Kenneth L. Burroughs
Idling and loafing during July 1 through Dec. 31 amounted to 172 instances, for a total of 285 hours, or 35 eight-hour workdays of inactivity. At his base pay rate, $27.39 an hour, that amounts to $7,807.11 taxpayers lost.
Deputy Robert G. Harmer
Idling and loafing time totaled 180 instances, amounting to over 251 hours, or 31 eight-hour work days of inactivity on the job. Taxpayers lost $7,853.48, based on the base pay of $31.29 an hour.
Deputy Samuel Mitchem
Idling and loafing time totaled 212 instances, amounting to over 314 hours, or 39 eight-hour work days. Taxpayers lost $9,002.34 based on his base pay of $28.69 an hour.
Sergeant Christopher W. Metro
Failure to supervise squad members (including Burroughs and Mitchem), neglecting supervisory responsibilities, failure to use available technology and other tools to monitor staff activities, leaving his area of assignment and idling, going to personal residence, 10 instances in all of idling of at least one hour each, having knowledge of the deputies' idling and failure to act. Admitted to watching a movie while on duty.
Deputy Brian T. Clark
Suspended for a day for lack of self-initiated activity, about four instances of idling.
Robert J. Wojciechowski
Two-day suspension for lack of self-initiated activity, failure to have GPS repaired, about four instances of idling.
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