Pinellas school police officers could become Sheriff's employees
UPDATE: Deputy Superintendent William Corbett said that the proposal is coming from the Sheriff's Office. He said the district didn't put it online because it was "drafty" and the board might not have any interest in it. To be clear, state law says that draft documents are public record. If it was available and set to be discussed during a public workshop, it should be have been posted to the district's website for viewing by the public. (It has since been added.) The item would be subject to a board vote.
Superintendent Mike Grego is bringing a proposal to the School Board Thursday that would transfer the district's school police officers to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, effective July 1.
The district's 26 school police officers would become employees of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, if they chose, according to a draft contract obtained by The Gradebook Wednesday. The district would pay the sheriff's office $1.9 million for police service, paid out in 36 monthly installments.
The proposal, which the School Board is set to discuss Thursday, has been effectively kept secret from the public. It's not listed on the board's agenda for Thursday's workshop and a copy of the contract or other supporting materials hasn't been posted to the district's website, as is customary before a public meeting.
Instead, the item is listed somewhat vaguely under another item entitled "operational efficiency." Back-up material for that item says only "1. Proposal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office - Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Acting-Chief Rick Stelljes will be available for questions and discussion." No further information was provided online.
A representative from the sheriff's office said she wasn't sure a proposal existed.
The Gradebook started calling the school district for further information Monday, but calls weren't returned. Board members, who were asked about the item, said they also hadn't been given further information. Board Chairwoman Carol Cook said her understanding was that the item was in the stages of "initial conversations" and that's why more information wasn't provided to the public ahead of the meeting.
The draft contract lists an effective date of July 1 - Monday.
Board members don't vote on items at public workshops, only regular meetings. The public also can't comment during a public workshop. A special board meeting is scheduled after Thursday's workshop, but the school police officer item isn't listed on that agenda.
It's not clear what the purpose of transferring the district's police unit to the sheriff's office would be. According to the draft contract, it wouldn't save money. The district pays $1.8 million in salaries and benefits for its officers, plus about $95,000 for other operational expenses. UPDATE: Sorry, folks. Looks like it would be a cost savings. The $1.9 million would be spread over 36 months, while the district's current cost of $1.8 million and change is just for the fiscal year.
It's also not clear if Grego has the power to execute the contract without the School Board voting on it at a public meeting.
The school district already contracts for some police service with a variety of local law enforcement agencies.