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Holder goes on air to defend link to company

Former Tampa police chief Bennie Holder responded Friday to news accounts of his connection to a company that sold the Police Department $2-million in equipment and services.

"Bennie Holder is clean. So take your best shot," he said. "Take your best shot."

Holder defended himself during an interview televised Friday on Fox-13. The chief is under scrutiny for agreeing to work as a consultant for GyroCam Systems, a company that sold more than $2-million in surveillance equipment to the city while Holder was chief.

Holder lashed out at media reports.

"I never expect that they would go so far as to try to implicate that Bennie Holder is a crook," he said. "I'm not."

While Holder was chief, the department bought $2.27-million worth of equipment from the company. At one point, the chief posed in uniform for a company advertisement in an aviation trade publication, Rotor and Wing.

Holder said he sees nothing improper with him appearing in the ad.

"What does this article say? "In Tampa, Florida criminals can run, but they can't hide,' " Holder said, reading from the ad. "It doesn't say a damn thing about GyroCam. I did it, and I'm damn proud I did it."

Ten days after leaving the Tampa Police Department, Holder signed a contract to perform consulting services for GyroCam Systems, a company that sells specialized police surveillance equipment.

Holder and Ken Sanborn, the president and CEO of GyroCam Systems, agreed that Holder would work at trade shows, attend marketing meetings and make sales pitches on behalf of the Sarasota-based company.

Holder's relationship with Sanborn also is under scrutiny because Sanborn's company did business with the city with no competitive bidding. Sanborn and police officials say the company did no bidding because it was the only vendor that sells and services the technology.

The cameras, which were installed in the Police Department's helicopters, are an important tool for the police. They are free of vibrations and use thermal imaging for night surveillance.

Sanborn's company also was the biggest contributor to the 2002 National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives conference, which was held in Tampa.

As chief and a member of NOBLE, Holder penned fundraising letters to a variety of companies. GyroCam, which was then operating as Aerial Films, donated $50,000 to the event, more than any other company.

Aerial Films filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September. According to state records, the principal director of both Aerial Films and GyroCam Systems is Sanborn, both of which have dealt with the Police Department.