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Deputies demoted over election arrests

Sarasota County Sheriff Geoffrey Monge formally chastised two of his top deputies Wednesday, two weeks after they arrested campaign workers for Monge's opponent just hours before a runoff election.

Capt. Dario Valente, an 18-year veteran of the department, was demoted to lieutenant, said a memo from Monge. Lt. Roger Lovern, who has been with the department for 19 years, lost his title as an assistant bureau commander, the memo said.

Monge's memo followed his investigation into Valente and Lovern's actions during the early morning of Oct. 1, before the polls opened in his runoff election against Darrell Blosser, said sheriff's spokesman William Stookey.

Valente and Lovern followed three of Blosser's campaign workers and watched as they put up political signs along a county road, Stookey said.

The officers arrested the three workers, including Blosser campaign manager Jon Susce, and charged them with violating a county ordinance which bans commercial signs on public rights of way and with loitering and prowling, Stookey said.

The three Blosser workers were held in jail overnight, he said.

That day, Monge soundly beat Blosser in the election.

In the next few days, a judge and a prosecutor threw out the charges against the Blosser campaign workers.

After Blosser and the workers complained about the incident, Monge opened an investigation, as did the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Stookey said. The FDLE investigation is not concluded.