Former Pasco Sheriff Bob White's political cronyism is now accompanied by a $2 million price tag — the cost to settle litigation from six ex-employees who contended White ended their careers after his 2008 re-election because of age discrimination.
In announcing the settlement, current Sheriff Chris Nocco said the agency admitted no wrongdoing. It would be hard for Nocco to acknowledge otherwise considering he filled one of the vacancies created by White's decision to put political patronage above Pasco experience.
Besides, Nocco did not have to lay the blame on his predecessor because it is evident to all. You don't spend $2 million to settle a nuisance suit and the payout is vindication for former attorneys Mike Randall, Mary Ann Burke and Ron France and Capts. Skip Stone, Sandra Reed and Jim Driscoll. All were forced to retire or resign after White was elected to a third term.
Nocco, 35, appointed sheriff by Gov. Rick Scott in April after White's retirement, joined the agency in 2009 following White's public pronouncement that the department was "going in a different direction.'' That direction was provided by the GOP GPS as White turned to Republican insiders in Tallahassee to help manage the department.
Besides Nocco, the new faces and their ages at the time of their hiring were contract lawyer Richard Corcoran, 43, and chief legal counsel Jeremiah Hawkes, 32. All three had worked for Marco Rubio at the Florida House of Representatives. Just before announcing his departure, White promoted Hawkes and Nocco to the top two positions in the department. Corcoran, meanwhile, was elected state representative in 2010 and is expected to be speaker of the state House in five years.
Randall, Burke, France, Stone, Reed and Driscoll, all of whom were 56 or older when they left the department, didn't enjoy the same meteoric career trajectory. The settlement — to be paid from a self-insurance fund — further diminishes White's legacy and erodes his past boasts of his department's savvy cost-saving skills. The cost of a new direction shouldn't be so exorbitant.