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Courts / Law

Rice, Gualtieri Get Personal in Quest for Pinellas Sheriff

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Steve Newborn
/
WUSF

It's been buried in the news by the presidential race and the Republican National Convention, but the primaries are only two weeks away. One of those races has turned personal. The two Republican candidates for Pinellas County Sheriff clearly don't care for each other.

There's apparently no love lost between Everett Rice and Bob Gualtieri. The two verbally jabbed at each other during much of a recent debate at a Clearwater church.

Rice, who was Sheriff for 16 years before leaving for the state House, says Gualtieri hasn't earned his stripes as sheriff.

"The fact is he was never promoted to any rank - none. All the time he was at the Sheriff's Office, he never even got promoted to the first level of sergeant," says Rice. "And for him to put on this flyer 'up through the ranks' it's just a falsehood. He's trying to take credit for climbing up through the ranks, which is a complete lie."

As you might expect, Gualtieri disagrees. He was appointed to the post in November when Jim Coats resigned.

"I started as deputy in the jail. I was a city cop in Dunedin. I was a patrol deputy, I was a detective, I was a corporal in narcotics. Then I was the general counsel, then I was the chief deputy and now I'm the sheriff," he says. "That is up through the ranks, as far as I'm concerned."

For his part, Gualtieri says Rice is living in the past.

"He has no future," says Gualtieri. "All he talks about is the past. What's wrong with it is, just because you're running on a "recycle me" platform - just because you were, doesn't mean you should be."

Rice then accused Gualtieri of mismanagement. He hammered away at an internal affairs investigations of the narcotics division, which resulted in the firing of several detectives.

"I think if you look between the ones who were fired and the ones under investigation, there's almost like a culture of corruption with some of the detectives," says Rice.

Replies Gualtieri: "What Everett says, is there's a culture of corruption - again, that's offensive. There's only four people who were involved in this - four. And he says there's an ongoing investigation - he doesn't know. These are misstatements of fact. There is not one ongoing investigation right now."

Here's what Rice had to say to that.

"There's still ongoing investigations. The State Attorney's had to drop at least 18 drug cases because of his cop's misconduct. In my tenure, we only had 3 or 4 cases like that, over 16 years."

Then, there's the shrinking Sheriff's Office budget. Tight fiscal times means Gualtieri's had to cut more than 600 positions. When asked what he'd do about the budget, Rice assailed Gualtieri for having his name stenciled on things like police cruisers.

"This guy, as soon as he got appointed governor - or sheriff by the governor - he went about rebranding the Sheriff's Office in his name," says Rice. "He got rid of all the stationary and all the paperwork and all the things the Sheriff's Office has with the sheriff's name on it - and threw it all away and had it redone in his name. Put his name on a cruiser. And the list goes on and on of the things he's done that I would not do."

Gualtieri replied that he's done a lot with diminishing resources.

"In the time that Everett was sheriff, he increased the general fund budget by $80 million," he says. "He increased the Sheriff's Office position by over 800 positions. In the four years of me doing the budget, we've decreased the general fund by $108 million. We've eliminated over 600 positions - including 167 law enforcement deputies - and we've reduced crime by 12 percent and arrests are up."

The last man standing after the August 14 Republican primary will face off against Democrat Scott Swope and write-in candidate Greg Pound.