Sunday, July 15, 2018

Ex-Sheriff Gillum seeks return to office in Volusia County

Former Pasco Sheriff Jim Gillum, rejected overwhelmingly by local voters in three successive campaigns, is seeking to become sheriff in Volusia County.

The Daytona Beach News Journal reported that Gillum, 72, a 10-year resident of Volusia County, is the sixth candidate to file papers to run after Sheriff Ben Johnson announced his retirement.

Pasco voters elected Gillum, a Republican and former Tampa police sergeant, as sheriff in 1984 after Gov. Bob Graham removed from office Sheriff John Short, who had been indicted on criminal charges.

Short, a Democrat, was later cleared, but he lost an attempt to regain the seat in a head-to-head election against Gillum in 1988. Gillum's political fortunes turned four years later when the two-term incumbent received less than 30 percent of the vote in a Republican primary. He ran again unsuccessfully in 1996 and 2000, with his vote total dwindling to less than 18 percent in the GOP primary 16 years ago.

Gillum's tenure was filled with controversies, including:

• Revelations that his 1984 campaign received a $100 contribution from the wife of a convicted drug trafficker. Gillum told the News Journal last week that he had no relationship with drug smuggler Joseph Valverde and that the contribution came from Valverde's wife, Lee Knight Moffett, who was acquainted with Gillum's wife at the time.

• Gillum's free use of a rental van from a car dealer three weeks after he gave the car dealer a $770,000 contract for the purchase of 71 sheriff's vehicles.

• His hiring of his girlfriend for an unadvertised job as a legal assistant and then promoting her to staff attorney.

• A state investigation of the activities in his personnel office amid a hiring frenzy in anticipation of the 1990 opening of the Land O'Lakes Detention Center. The state didn't file charges but uncovered record tampering by the personnel office.

The state probe came after Gillum's department offered employment to people without completed background checks. Within a six-month period, 11 workers resigned or were fired after the Sheriff's Office learned they had prior disciplinary problems at other police agencies, criminal charges and a failed polygraph test.

After leaving office 24 years ago, Gillum couldn't escape legal entanglements. He lost his driver's license for a year over allegations of unpaid child support, and he was arrested on a charge of writing a worthless check to his landlord. Prosecutors later dropped the bad-check charge.

His announced candidacy stunned his former political colleagues in Pasco County.

"No," said Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano, a political ally of Gillum's in the late 1980s. "Oh, my gosh, God bless him. But let the people of Volusia decide whether they want him to be sheriff or not."

New Port Richey police Chief Kim Bogart, a major in Gillum's administration and a high-ranking officer in the department under Gillum's successor, Lee Cannon, was silent for several moments when asked for comment.

"I have to admire his grit," Bogart finally said.

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