NEW PORT RICHEY — Concerned about the bleeding of his personnel south toward better-paying jobs, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco called a news conference Thursday to talk about funding.
He cited deputies' resignation letters, in which they say they are moving on for more money.
"I believe the agency has come a long ways since you took command and control of the agency," wrote Detective Anthony Scarpati in his resignation letter in August before going to the Pinellas Sheriff's Office, "but due to the economic climate, I am unable to stay."
Indeed, the number of Pasco deputies leaving for other agencies has increased over the past four years. In 2010, seven left; in 2011, eight; in 2012, nine; last year, 10. Six have left this year. There are four vacancies in the agency of 541 law enforcing deputies.
Nocco wrote a letter Tuesday to Pasco County Commission Chairman Jack Mariano, in light of upcoming budget decisions, to address deputies' departures. In the letter, he cited Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri having the same problem, losing his deputies to higher-paying agencies like the St. Petersburg Police Department, Hillsborough Sheriff's Office and Tampa Police Department.
"Unless we do something to rectify this," Gualtieri said in an interview Thursday, "we're not going to be able to attract the high-quality candidates, and we're not going to be able to retain people."
Gualtieri said he was able to move money within his agency to offer $3,000 bonuses to experienced candidates who apply for patrol positions and are hired.
That could be to Nocco's detriment. Between not being able to offer overtime pay or shift differentials and having stagnant wages for five years, Nocco said he's worried he won't be able to compete with any other agencies, including Gualtieri's.
"They're doing what I would do," he said. "If we could recruit like this, I would do the same thing."