Friday, January 19, 2018
Opinion

What some called an advantage put Pinellas Sheriff Gualtieri right in the hot seat

Foul! they shouted. Unfair! they claimed.

Appoint Bob Gual­tieri as Pinellas sheriff after his boss resigns, and he'll have a built-in advantage when the position is up for election later this year.

So how is that unfair advantage working out for you, sheriff?

"There are days,'' Gualtieri said, "when it's a challenge.''

Lawyers are bad-mouthing his department. Reporters are questioning the investigative tactics of detectives. The State Attorney's Office is dismissing charges in disputed marijuana cases.

Gualtieri's visibility may have skyrocketed, but the headlines are rarely kind.

Never mind that all of the apparent mischief created by the narcotics department occurred before Gualtieri replaced Jim Coats as Pinellas County Sheriff last November.

And never mind that Gual­tieri had already revamped the hierarchy in that department before these allegations began surfacing in the past month or two.

Nuance is lost in politics, and perspective is a moving target.

So no matter what the timeline looks like in retrospect, the only thing that matters is what happens now that the curtain has been pulled back and the dirty secrets have tumbled out.

"It's all about trust. Absolutely. You have to make sure people have that confidence in you,'' Gualtieri said. "Because once you've lost it, you've lost it. I wouldn't say you couldn't win it back, but it's pretty darn hard.

"So it's not a question of whether an organization like this has problems from time to time, but what's important is how we handle it. How I handle it.''

In the end, his opponents were probably right. Gual­tieri should still be thankful Gov. Rick Scott appointed him Coats' successor.

He may have spent the previous four years as the sheriff's top deputy, but Gual­tieri's name recognition was never going to approach the level of former Sheriff Everett Rice, who is running to regain office eight years after stepping down.

The trick is making the notoriety work for him. Gualtieri has to go from being the guy in charge when bad news arrived to being the guy who cleaned up the mess.

It won't be easy. There's a chance the stories could get worse before they get better. And Rice and other opponents will undoubtedly suggest Gualtieri still bears responsibility because he was second-in-command when shortcuts were taken.

Is it fair to toss some of that blame in Gualtieri's direction? Sure. He may have recognized that leadership in narcotics had gotten wobbly, but he said he wasn't aware of how deep the problems actually ran.

Even now he says he is frustrated that personnel within the Sheriff's Office and lawyers outside of his office waited so long before raising their voices.

He talks of his four months in the job as a relentless journey into a strong headwind, but says he is still better off having the chance to step out in front.

"There are pros and cons to both sides … but I'd give the advantage to being in this spot,'' Gualtieri said. "Because however this shakes out, it will give the citizens a chance to see me and get to know me for who I am and how I'm going to do this job.''

John Romano can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18