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  1. #1

    Former sheriff endorses Eakley Jeff Dawsy GUEST COLUMN Jul 18, 2020

    From Citrus Chronicle.

    As your sheriff from 1997-2017, it is not surprising I am often asked my opinion on law enforcement issues, politics and elections. I have mostly stayed silent, but for the good of our Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, today I feel compelled to speak.

    Four years ago, almost to the day, I received an early morning phone call informing me that Phil Royal, our lead candidate for sheriff, had tragically died. My first thoughts were of his wife and newborn daughter, the magnitude of their loss and the profound way in which their lives would change. In the ensuing days, we began to grapple with the loss to our community and the void that Phil’s death had left in the CCSO.

    As sheriff, knowing that Phil was the front runner, I had taken comfort that I was leaving the agency in good hands upon my retirement. When we realized the qualifying period for a new candidate had ended, we were forced to look at the remaining candidates to identify a placeholder that had the skills to adequately run the agency for the next four years. My decision to support Mike Prendergast in 2017 did not come without concern. Quite frankly, not everyone I spoke to about him gave exceptional reviews. Still, I felt he was the best option given our choice at the time.

    As much as I wanted Mike to succeed, after the election it became quickly apparent Mike was only interested in the title of sheriff. He had little interest in the actual workings of the agency and our employees.

    Soon after taking office, Mike started a pattern he has used to bully employees. He pursued an old and unfounded allegation against a high-ranking officer who had remained from my administration. The allegation was baseless, misrepresented the facts, and misled the public to believe this dedicated 20-year public servant had done something wrong.

    Recently, he again raised red flags when he insisted that a well-respected sergeant who is running for property appraiser must resign from the CCSO. Although our Supervisor of Elections told Mike that was incorrect, Mike refused to listen, later blaming the Florida Sheriff’s Association’s legal counsel for bad advice. As your sheriff for 20 years, I can tell you that the Florida Sheriff’s Association has some of the most qualified attorneys in the state of Florida protecting our 67 sheriffs. They do not give bad advice.

    I, too, have been a target of Mike Prendergast. He has publicly called me a criminal and claims to have a 5-inch file on me. He has put my integrity on the line. I challenge him to present that file to Chronicle publisher Gerry Mulligan and senior reporter Mike Wright for full disclosure, but it is simply another bullying tactic he has used.

    Other concerns during Mike’s tenure have given me and many other law enforcement professionals pause, including:

    The SRO debacle: This was a ridiculous ego-driven dispute with the county and superintendent of schools over how School Resource Officer funds should be allocated and accounted for. The first response of a sheriff should be to protect the citizens; instead, Mike endangered our children, our faculty, administration and support staff in each school, and left the superintendent of schools with no option but to create their own guardian force to provide this essential protection. His tactics damaged the long-standing relationship between the CCSO, the county and the school board, and forced them to work in isolation, rather than cooperation.
    Drug arrests: Mike’s focus on drug arrests has created a source for public fear, rather than safety. Good law officers know that you can’t arrest your way out of a drug problem. Busting the small user is a waste of time and resources. The target should be the drug lord. But at the recent campaign event at the Citrus County Building Alliance, Mike touted his drug arrests have saved thousands of lives from fentanyl. Fentanyl? That never had a foothold in Citrus County before Mike started his “drug” program. It is clearly not working.
    Strategic planning: Following his election, Mike complained to the county that the CCSO had been left with no strategic plan. I am sorry, but that is a task for the sheriff to do each elected four-year term. During my tenure with the CCSO, we had five strategic plans, each lasting four years. Mike was well aware that it was his duty as the new sheriff to develop his plan.
    Crumbling of employee morale: The CCSO has suffered the exodus of nearly 70 employees during Mike’s administration. Rather than the department being valued by staff as a place of loyalty and support from leadership, staff has felt denigrated and devalued. The CCSO has simply become a training ground for deputies to gain a little experience before moving elsewhere. And resorting to billboard advertising for replacement staff as Mike has done is certainly not a good strategy.
    In my opinion, the experiment with Mike Prendergast has not worked out to the benefit of Citrus County. We are no longer as safe as we were, and I do not believe he can adapt to modern day policing to move the CCSO forward for the future.

    Unlike then, we now have a candidate with exceptional civilian law enforcement credentials who can lead the CCSO to new heights. Mel Eakley is a 25-year law enforcement veteran that has served in every facet of the Florida sheriff’s office. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran, who received his police certification in 1991 at the Tampa Police Academy. Mel has proven track records of working with governmental entities, citizens, businesses and nonprofits, and knows every aspect of the sheriff’s office. He has held positions as a patrol deputy/sergeant/lieutenant, community policing/bike patrol deputy, vice and narcotics detective, School Resource Officer, Major Crimes detective/sergeant, Special Operations captain, Detective Division captain, Major Operational Logistics Bureau, Major Uniform Operations Bureau and Major Criminal Investigative Bureau. Throughout his career, he has earned the respect of all he has worked with. He understands what it is like to work on the streets and within the communities and values the hard work of the men and women of the CCSO.

    I don’t take criticizing the incumbent sheriff lightly. However, I feel that when the public safety is at stake, I am obligated to speak out. Of course, you are free to draw your own conclusions, but in my opinion, we need a new sheriff and Mel Eakley is imminently qualified to lead us forward. A vote for Mel Eakley is a vote to return the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office to excellence.

    Jeff Dawsy is a retired Citrus County Sheriff.

  2. #2
    Great endorsement. He is well respected here.

  3. #3
    I really thought Dawsy would look more into the background of someone he endorses. Eakley is sleazy in many ways. I know Dawsy has a sour taste in his mouth about Prendergast, but geeeez....

  4. #4
    Great endorsement!

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    Great endorsement!
    Whatever you say Frank.

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