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Pasco sheriff thanks County Commission for funding extra deputies

NEW PORT RICHEY — Sheriff Chris Nocco dropped by the County Commission chambers Wednesday to thank commissioners for an extra two dozen employees in his budget and highlight some of his agency's success stories over the past year.

"Because of the money you gave us, we were able to step forward and we made a lot of changes in this county," said Nocco, who was appointed to his job in the spring of 2011 after former Sheriff Bob White retired. "You trusted us and we want to show you what the rewards are."

The 23 new employees were approved last fall and are part of the current budget. They cost $1.6 million, covered by the savings the county saw last year when the Legislature changed retirement contribution requirements for public employees. Next year's budget would not add any sheriff's staffers.

Most of the employees were split into two squads to combat prescription pill abuse. Nocco pointed to several successful operations, such as a pair of raids in conjunction with federal officers that arrested dozens of people who were funneling pills to Kentucky and Tennessee.

Nocco also highlighted the December arrest of William Crumbley, who ran the Harbour Medical Group office in Land O'Lakes. Nocco said out-of-state patients frequented the office to wait for prescriptions for powerful painkillers. The day the doctor was arrested, Nocco said he walked in the lobby and found Crumbley drooling and slumped in his chair.

"That's how bad he was," he said. "He was fueling his own addiction."

Nocco also praised three new detectives who helped create the new intelligence-led policing unit. Those deputies analyze crime data to help predict where crimes might occur. "It's about retaking neighborhoods that people said were lost," Nocco said.

Starting next month, the Sheriff's Office will outsource food services at the county jail to Oldsmar-based Trinity Services Group. He said that will allow 12 sworn deputies to move to an expanded medical wing at the jail that will open early next year. The contract will cost $1.4 million.

Commissioners, who were familiar with bruising budget battles with the previous sheriff, largely gave Nocco a positive reception.

"It's really nice to see the cooperation," said Commissioner Pat Mulieri.

But the reaction wasn't all good. Nocco is running for a full term in the Nov. 6 election. His opponent, former Sheriff's Capt. Kim Bogart, watched the sheriff's presentation and came away unimpressed.

"They are everyday things for law enforcement agencies everywhere," he said. "I didn't hear exceptional accomplishments at all."

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236.

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In other news Wednesday, commissioners

• Confirmed Suzanne Salichs to replace Dan Johnson, a longtime assistant county administrator who is retiring Oct. 31. Salichs will oversee public service departments including parks, libraries, animal control and elderly nutrition. Salichs, 49, worked for 24 years in Miami-Dade County government in transit and economic development positions. She also spent four years at the city of Miami. She earned a master's degree from Florida International University and a doctorate from Barry University, where she has been a part-time adjunct professor since 2009. She will earn $105,000 annually.

• Got a budget update from County Administrator John Gallagher. Last week, commissioners told him to find $140,000 for the AMIkids alternative school and $100,000 to keep the Veterans Memorial Park swimming pool open next summer. He said the county's constitutional officers plan to return more unspent money, or "excess fees," than they earlier estimated. "I don't have anything in writing from them, but I can tell you that in my conversations with them, I'm going to get back more than enough to cover the $240,000," he said.

Pasco sheriff thanks County Commission for funding extra deputies 09/05/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 8:22pm]
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