Pasco Deputy Sheriff Robert Scott Gattuso resigned from the department last week leaving unanswered questions about his 20-year tenure in law enforcement and his departure from the Sheriff's Office. The most notable question: What took so long?
Gattuso's lengthy disciplinary record, more than 30 complaints of wrong-doing over two decades and an open internal affairs investigation at the time of his resignation, is an embarrassment to the agency and to Sheriff Bob White, who failed to remove him from the public payroll despite:
• A work history that includes 13 substantiated violations of the code of professional standards including insubordination, failing to obey orders, conduct unbecoming an officer and inattention to duty.
• A 2003 no contest plea to misdemeanor charges of attempted forgery for cashing a $372 insurance check intended for his ex-wife.
• A 2005 Pinellas County case in which Gattuso and his brother were suspected of conspiring to dump Gattuso's Nissan Pathfinder into Lake Tarpon and report it stolen to avoid making payments. Records showed Pinellas deputies planned to charge Gattuso with filing a false police report, but prosecutors declined because incriminating statements from Gattuso's ex-wife were considered inconsistent and inadmissible.
The Pasco Sheriff's Office did not investigate the Pathfinder case, offering the implausible explanation that no legitimate questions were left unanswered. The criminal and internal affairs investigations surrounding the forgery case allowed Gattuso to take a paid leave of absence for more than a year, collect nearly $48,000 and receive two salary increases during his absence.
In the end, his paltry punishment was losing his vacation time, being demoted from detective to patrol and giving up the raises. Essentially, Gattuso traded 11 weeks vacation for a year off and returned to work at the same pay grade as when he left.
The disturbing lack of accountability finally concluded Oct. 1, during yet another unspecified investigation, when Gattuso resigned saying he planned to pursue "a better life outside the state of Florida.''
We suspect it also means a better life for the sheriff's internal affairs investigators, who spent far too much of their time investigating the unacceptable behavior of this rogue cop.