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Of cheers, jeers and beginnings

After a week back on the job following a much-needed vacation, here's a Monday morning cheer, a couple of jeers and a big congratulations. Make it three cheers for Hernando County Sheriff Tom Mylander for his decisiveness in firing Detective Kenneth Shields.

No one ever likes to see someone put out on the street without a job, but the facts in this case were too overwhelming to justify keeping Shields on the force.

Shields, you will remember, drove his county truck into a ditch near Nobleton late on the night of May 10. He and his wife had been out drinking. Shields explained the incident by saying that, on his last stop that night, he had been on an undercover assignment in a bar and had to drink to fit in with the crowd.

Of course that doesn't explain why anyone should be behind the wheel of a vehicle in the condition Shields apparently was in. (He couldn't recite the alphabet correctly.) And, according to the sheriff's internal inquiry, Shields had been drinking since late that afternoon and didn't have clearance for the undercover operation.

I still wonder just how much information the Sheriff's Office would have released about Shields' accident had one of our reporters not been "tipped off" to it. Not until a Times reporter confronted the sheriff and demanded to see the accident report did the story begin to develop. And then we were told that the reason nothing had been released was because Shields was on an undercover assignment. Hmmm . . .

And I also have to disagree with the contention that Shields was treated no differently than any other motorist would have been at the scene of his accident. You're telling me that if I'm speeding, run my car into a ditch and smell of alcohol when the cops arrive, that I'm not going to end up blowing into the Breathalyzer and being charged with something? Come on.

But Mylander is to be commended, nonetheless, for making a recovery on this one. His actions, to my mind, at least, have restored some of the credibility that his department lost during the first few days after Shields' accident.

The sheriff is also promising changes in his office's drinking-and-driving policy and in the policy regarding the hiring of relatives of people in the department. (Shields is the son of Chief Deputy Don Shields.)

Jeers to the Brooksville City Council and the Hernando County Commission.

After putting together a proposal that would have helped reduce sign clutter in Brooksville, the three members of the City Council buckled under last week to what apparently was pressure from the business community, and the city is about to end up with a sign ordinance that's worse than the one in place now.

The proposal would double the maximum allowable size for signs. It also would give non-conforming signs the right to remain forever.

Talk about a noble effort gone haywire. Council member John Tucker and Mayor Joe Bernardini remain supportive. Hopefully, at least one of their colleagues will change his mind before the final vote July 1.

The County Commission also misstepped last week when it voted to disband its Freedom from Architectural Barriers committee.

One only has to take note of how badly mistreated the handicapped are in public places to realize how important it is to have their opinions represented in county government.

One can only hope that the committee sticks together and becomes an effective advocate now that it has its independence from the county.

Finally, a big congratulations to all of the graduating high school seniors at Hernando, Springstead and Central high schools and at Hernando Christian Academy.

All of you seniors probably see your graduation this week as a welcome end to what seemed like an endless process. Remember, it's only the beginning.

With the tools your teachers have equipped you with, you are ready either to enter the working world or to go on to college and prepare yourself for a career.

Make the most of whatever you choose to do. And the best of luck to all of you.