Friday, April 20, 2018
News Roundup

Sheriff's Office revokes perk for Hillsborough PTC chief to moonlight

TAMPA — The head of Hillsborough's Public Transportation Commission has lost his right to earn money moonlighting as a reserve sheriff's deputy because he failed do the volunteer work required to get the perk.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has notified Cesar Padilla, executive director for the government agency that regulates taxis, limos and other for-hire vehicles, that his status as a reserve deputy has been revoked.

Padilla was ordered to "immediately" forfeit his Sheriff's Office gear — from uniforms and any guns he got as a reservist — and to cease all law-enforcement- related actions, according to a letter sent him last week by sheriff's Chief Deputy Jose Docobo.

His decertification will be submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, the letter states. The action would sharply reduce Padilla's pension, as law enforcement officers enjoy an enhanced multiplier in calculating benefits compared with other state government workers in recognition of the risk of the job.

Padilla has been out of the office and attempts to reach him for comment since last week have been unsuccessful.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist, who serves as the PTC chairman, said the lapse underscores a need to codify expectations of the agency. That's an effort he is undertaking as legislators consider overhauling or dissolving the PTC.

"I don't know what to say. I'm shocked," Crist said. "I don't know if it's lack of knowledge or if it's sheer laziness."

The Tampa Bay Times reported last week that on multiple occasions Padilla has worked moonlighting shifts as a security guard while payroll records indicate he was working at the PTC or out sick. He qualified for the $28-an-hour security work by virtue of his certification as a reserve deputy with the Sheriff's Office.

He has earned just more than $10,400 in the past 20 months providing security for a Thonotosassa auction house, in addition to his $107,000 annual salary at the transportation agency.

On 10 occasions, the security work was done on Mondays during business hours when county payroll records show he had not taken vacation time to do it.

To qualify for reserve duty that enabled him to do the security work, Padilla, retired from the Air Force, was required to undergo annual physicals and law enforcement training. He also had to do 20 hours of volunteer work for the Sheriff's Office each month.

"As a return, we allow them to work off-duty jobs," Docobo said. "There was an expectation that he volunteer 20 hours a month. He had not done that for quite some time."

Docobo said his office reviewed the most recent 12 months of records and found Padilla had not met his volunteering obligations in any of them.

Padilla's moonlighting was publicly revealed as Crist was seeking to negotiate an employment contract with him — something the executive director has not had since Padilla took over in 2007, promoted from chief inspector. Crist said Padilla was seeking an increase in his salary to offset money he was making from outside work a new contract would forbid.

Docobo's letter said Padilla is further prohibited from serving in a different reserve capacity offered to people who perform limited law enforcement functions, like arson investigators.

Padilla had qualified previously as a PTC inspector, since the agency's inspectors conduct criminal background, license and warrants checks on taxi, limo and other for-hire drivers and can make arrests.

For years, those duties have helped qualify PTC inspectors for the same enhanced pension benefit multipliers as other full-fledged law officers and government employees whose jobs are deemed to carry special risks.

Padilla's job change from inspector to the agency's executive director no longer qualified him for that reserve deputy status, Docobo wrote.

Docobo said in an interview that it was an oversight on the part of the Sheriff's Office that neither Padilla's volunteer absence nor change in title had been caught earlier.

Docobo said Padilla could try to apply again to be a reservist, but it would be up to Sheriff David Gee's discretion whether to take him back.

"Quite honestly my recommendation to Sheriff Gee would be that he permanently revoke his certification," Docobo said.

Crist has said he advised Padilla that he should be disclosing his work for the auction house on a state form required of certain high-level government employees detailing financial interests, which he had failed to do. Padilla submitted an amendment last week for his most recent filing covering 2012 to include his moonlighting, according to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, which retains the forms.

Forms for prior years dating to 2008 do not make any note the outside source of income.

Bill Varian can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3387.

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