LAND O'LAKES — Brian Call spent 14 years in construction before becoming a road patrol deputy in 2007. When the Sheriff's Office decided to build a hangar for its aviation unit using inmate labor, the agency put Call in charge — he could supervise the inmates and the construction at the same time, saving taxpayers' money.
Construction began in September and Call was transferred Nov. 1 from road patrol to work at the hangar.
But on his evening shifts monitoring the inmates — who are low-risk and given the option to do work duty to reduce their sentences — Call fraternized too much with them, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Call, 35, used his own cell phone to contact inmates' girlfriends and had them visit the hangar site, a report states. He brought Copenhagen smokeless tobacco and shared it with inmates, and had the inmates' girlfriends bring more to the site, the Sheriff's Office said.
An inmate told another construction supervisor — Deputy Karl Crawford — about the tobacco products. Crawford informed his superiors Dec. 7, beginning a criminal investigation. Call was placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 10 and unpaid leave Dec. 21.
He was arrested Tuesday and is in the process of being fired, said sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll.
Call was charged with introduction of contraband into a jail facility and unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior — for allegedly taking tobacco from the inmates' girlfriends.
Doll said the investigation into what else might have happened at the hangar is ongoing.
"As soon as allegations against Brian Call were reported, we began an investigation," Sheriff Bob White said in a press release. "As is the normal process, we turned our completed investigation over to the State Attorney's Office for action, which advised us charges were warranted. It is always disappointing when a member of our office is arrested.
"The Pasco Sheriff's Office holds itself to extremely high standards and we continuously strive to maintain the public trust."
Sheriff's Office employees are not allowed to use tobacco products if they were hired after 2005. All new employees — including Call, hired in 2007 — sign a document stating they will adhere to the anti-tobacco policy or face possible termination.
This was Call's first job in law enforcement. He's from New York and bounced between Florida, New York and New Jersey as an adult, working jobs as a carpenter, toll collector, foreman, handyman and construction project manager, according to his personnel file. Call didn't stay long at most of the jobs — he had 13 different employers since graduating from high school in 1993, the file states. He worked in construction in New York a few months before applying for the deputy position in Pasco in May 2007. He was hired in July. He made $40,376 a year.
Call's performance reviews were solid — he follows instructions, he needs to be more punctual, he's a good listener. He has "that unique ability to remember people's names that he contacts and he is very at ease speaking with people," his latest review said.
Inmates have done the majority of the work on the hangar, expected to be finished in February. The Sheriff's Office said using inmates to build the hangar has saved taxpayer money.
Sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin said Call and the other construction supervisor "are basically doing the job of four or five people, so the savings to the county is significant, as much as $700,000 if a private contractor had built the project."
The department would not release the names of the inmates who worked on the hangar, citing the ongoing investigation.
Call, who lives in New Port Richey, was released from the jail Tuesday on $15,000 bail.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.