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No charges in probe of Sheriff's Office

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office says it has insufficient evidence at this time to bring criminal charges against employees of the Pasco Sheriff's Office. Monday's announcement followed a month-long investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The investigation dealt, at least in part, with an allegation of record-tampering in the personnel department.

Pasco Sheriff Jim Gillum asked the FDLE to examine the allegation, which he characterized as politically motivated.

"Having reviewed the report provided to us, we have determined that (the FDLE's) assessment is correct, and we agree that, at this time, insufficient evidence exists to establish that criminal violations have occurred," State Attorney James T. Russell wrote in a June 5 letter to the FDLE.

Gillum said Monday he was satisfied with the finding, saying his policy of "cleaning his own house" is "pretty clear."

Gillum said three top officials who have been on paid administrative leave since the investigation began _ his bureau commander of administration, James O'Keefe, O'Keefe's second-in-command, Capt. John Morrison, and Personnel Director Nancy Grantham _ would return to their regular duties today.

Although the state attorney's office found insufficient evidence for prosecution, Gillum acknowledged that his personnel office was beset by shortcomings. He said some of his employees had failed to make complete background checks and properly fill out paper work.

Sheriff's officials have fired or sought the resignations of 11 people since last fall, when problems in hiring first became apparent.

"Those people back there blew it," Gillum said of some members of his staff. Now that the state investigation has concluded, Gillum said he personally will interview every person who has worked in his personnel department in the last two years "to find out what happened."

"We learn from our mistakes," he said.

The state attorney's office made its decision after reviewing a report of the FDLE investigation and meeting with an FDLE investigator last month. The commissioner of the FDLE, James T. "Tim" Moore, called Gillum on Monday to inform him of Russell's decision.

The text of the FDLE's report was not made public.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Bernie McCabe said he did not think his office would do anything else regarding the matter "unless new information were to come up."

The allegation of record-tampering was made by Lee Cannon, Gillum's former departmental attorney who says he is considering a run for sheriff next year. Gillum did not mention Cannon by name on Monday, but he said he resented anyone who would "take cheap shots at the Sheriff's Office for political gains."

"He's the master of cheap shots," Cannon said of Gillum.

Cannon said he would not comment on the FDLE investigation until he had read the entire file. But he said the determination of what constitutes probable cause for criminal charges is a "subjective" decision.

"What one may say is sufficient evidence, another may say is not sufficient evidence," Cannon said. "I'm not faulting the state attorney's office."

Cannon is representing several present and former employees of the Sheriff's Office in matters related to the problems in the personnel department. One of his clients, the sheriff's former polygraph operator, James D. McDonough, met with an FDLE investigator during the inquiry, Cannon said.

McDonough was relieved of his polygraph duties and reassigned to road patrol duty last November.

_ Staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report.