Sheriff's Office launches investigation of Dunedin commissioners for alleged Sunshine Law violation
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is investigating two Dunedin commissioners for possible violation of the Sunshine Law, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri confirmed Monday.
He would not release the names of those who filed the complaints against Commissioner Heather Gracy and Vice Mayor Bruce Livingston, but said they are in relation to the unconventional resignation of former city manager Rob DiSpirito following the commissioners' votes for his termination more than a month ago.
Gualtieri said information brought to him just after DiSpirito resigned just wasn't enough to launch an investigation. But information he received two weeks ago proved otherwise.
"This time it warrants a preliminary inquiry involving some interviews to determine if there is merit to the allegations," he said. "There was enough that it warrants and necessitates taking it further."
Gualtieri said the next step will be to interview people who have information about the allegations and witnesses of acts that may support them. He said the interviews will commence soon, but there is no way to tell when the investigation will be over.
"I don't want this lingering over them or the community, so we will be actively looking into it," he said. "The sooner we conclude, the better, but we can't rush."
The Sheriff said there is no formal notification for investigations of this kind, but he did contact Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski and City Attorney Tom Trask to "put them on notice."
Neither Gracy nor Livingston would confirm or deny the allegations.
"I really don't know the details of the complaint, so I really can't comment," Livingston said.
"I am not going to give a comment until the investigation is closed," Gracy said.
Gualtieri stressed the seriousness of Sunshine Law violations and said he would never launch an investigation unless he felt it was absolutely necessary.
"It is very serious when you undertake one of these investigations because of what it can do to an individual and what it can do to a city," he said. "I don't take it lightly the decision to investigate, but we have an obligation."