Bob White says he is the best sheriff Pasco County has had in the past 20 years. He should aim higher. White's eight-year tenure, indeed, has been an improvement over the administrations of the recent past, but it's hardly a measuring stick to legitimize his performance.
Since 1976, Pasco County has been served by four elected sheriffs. John Short was indicted and removed from office. Jim Gillum's tenure was marked by, among other things, cronyism, a state investigation of his personnel office and the presence of the sheriff's girlfriend on the payroll for a job that was unadvertised. In 2000, White defeated Lee Cannon, who had used false data in an unsuccessful push for a new property tax to hire more deputies.
Now, White is seeking a third term and his Democratic opponent is Kim Bogart, (who appears on the ballot as K.S. Bogart,) a police consultant and former high-ranking member of the command staffs under Gillum and Cannon.
Bogart, 56, has the experience and knowledge to run the agency and maintains he shouldn't be judged by the performance of his former bosses. That's easier said than done. Bogart can't escape the cronyism and nepotism that permeated the Gillum administration. In Gillum's first term, the office hired and retained Bogart's then-wife as a secretary even though she had been accused of lying on her application about earning a high school diploma. The incident escaped public scrutiny until a deputy fired for lying on her application about a prior drug test asked legitimately for treatment equal to what was afforded the Bogart family.
Under Cannon, Bogart headed up accreditation, research and planning for an administration unable to decipher the agency's capabilities and wrongly asked voters for a new tax for personnel needs that fell apart under scrutiny. Exactly what was Bogart doing while others in the department couldn't figure out the number of emergency calls received or how long it took to respond?
We believe Bogart has grown professionally as he has studied other police departments nationwide over the past eight years, but we are not convinced he is a suitable replacement for White.
In this campaign, for instance, Bogart said the Sheriff's Office needs more deputies, but he doesn't know how many until he is able to study staffing and deployment from the inside. He also said it is the sheriff's job to fight for more deputies and it is the county commissioners' job to say no. We've seen these budget battles in the past, including those involving the incumbent. They are unproductive and for the most part will be irrelevant in the post Amendment 1 era.
On Nov. 4, voters must consider who is best prepared to lead the Pasco County Sheriff's Office in the face of limited resources now and in the near future. Our pick is White, even though we have been highly critical of such nonessential spending as a no-bid SUV, a human resources consultant with ill-defined and poorly documented duties, and personal use of take-home cars with publicly financed gasoline for civilian employees. Most of those luxuries are a thing of the past (except the SUV) and White's more reasonable 2009 budget was approved by commissioners with little dissent.
White's newfound fiscal responsibility was forced on him by voters, but he is working to improve efficiency. His highly regarded citizens service unit sends civilians to nonemergency calls like minor traffic accidents that keep deputies available for more pressing cases. Likewise, the citizens academy will begin training volunteers to better serve as neighborhood watch patrols.
Both campaigns offer an avalanche of statistics to advance their candidacies, but the most important consideration just may well be dollars and cents. We believe White has demonstrated a new understanding of living within the means of a budget that isn't likely to see significant growth any time soon.
The Times recommends voters re-elect Republican Sheriff Bob White to a third term.