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Chief Assistant State Attorney Ed Brodsky, left, and Sheriff Tom Knight, right, release the findings of their investigation.
Sarasota Friday, Jul. 29, 2011 8 years ago

No charges in county purchasing scandal

by: Robin Roy City Editor

A four-month Sheriff’s Office investigation into county employees’ use of purchasing credit cards has determined that although the use of the cards was improper, no employee intended to break the law. No one is facing criminal charges.

“We looked for instances of personal gain and corrupt intent,” said Sheriff Tom Knight. “Based on all the facts, the state attorney’s office found insufficient evidence (to prosecute.)”

County policy holds that for any services of more than $3,000 a process kicked in, which required verbal quotes and/or written bids.

The investigation found that employees routinely charged their purchasing cards to the $3,000 limit several times to avoid going through the lengthy quote-and-bidding process.

For example, an employee would want to contract a service that cost $21,000. He would make seven $3,000 charges to pay that amount.

Instead of placing the bulk of the blame on the employees, investigators pointed the finger at their supervisors.

“Some (employees) broke the rules because that was how it was always done or just because they were able to,” said Knight. “It was a failure of management.”

The sheriff scolded the county management for putting its employees in a position so that they were at risk of being prosecuted for a crime.

“It wasn’t bad apples (in the employee pool),” he said. “It was poor leadership.”

Although the investigation will not result in criminal charges against county employees, one county contractor, Tim Harlow, was discovered to be operating without a license.

The state attorney’s office will now decide whether there’s enough evidence to prosecute Harlow.

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].

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