Democratic candidates for Pasco sheriff Kim Bogart and Jeff Deremer drew sharp contrasts on their backgrounds, qualifications and visions during a West Pasco Chamber of Commerce candidate forum last night.
Bogart underscored his 16 years as a former Sheriff's Office captain and major and a consultant to other law enforcement agencies around the nation.
Deremer emphasized his street smarts as a probation officer for Florida Department of Corrections, a job that includes making arrests, in addition to a criminology degree.
Deremer pushed his plan for taxation of criminals by boosting fines for DUI and probation violators to raise extra funds for the Sheriff's Office.
Bogart would look into reducing costs at the Sheriff's Office through consolidation of services with county government, such as fleet management.
Here are excerpts from the debate:
DEREMER: "I believe that I'm the best candidate for this position, not because of the education that I have - I am a graduate of Florida State University (with a criminology degree) - but because I have 15 years in law enforcement. Seven of those I was assigned to the (Pasco) Sheriff's Office in criminal investigations. I have the actual road, physical experience that you need. When was the last time he (Bogart) made an arrest? Me? It was today, the day before that. I'm still out there going to war, folks, every day I'm taking drugs, firearms and criminals off the street."
BOGART: "I'm a 29-year law enforcement officer. I began my career at the Tampa Police Department in 1975, ... where in the five and a half years that I worked there, I worked in special operations, I worked in the training section as a full-time instructor, I was on the bomb squad. Then I came up to Pasco County, where I worked for 16 years as a captain and a major in this sheriff's office. While there I worked in most areas of the agency or I was responsible for nearly all areas of the agency, except for corrections. When the current sheriff came into office, I left, which is common at that level. I went to the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office, where I worked for nearly 8 years as a part-time deputy. At the same time I continued my career (as a consultant) in law enforcement and corrections accreditation. I'm campaigning for sheriff for primarily three reasons: the violent crime, that is on a tremendously fast increase in Pasco; limited fiscal resources that we have to deal with; and the biggest issue that comes to mind this evening, is the serious disconnect between the deputies and the Sheriff's Office administration."
Question to Bogart: "Sheriff Bob White has called your friend, (Republican sheriff candidate) Bobby Sullivan, a 'crash dummy Kim Bogart.' What's your response to that?"
BOGART: "I have known (Sullivan) over 22 years. He's a professional. He's my personal friend. He is running his campaign. I am running my campaign. We have no special arrangement. I hope that he does well, But I'm running my own campaign and he has no direct involvement in it, nor do any of the people involved in his camp."
DEREMER: "I certainly can understand that comment being made. ... We have observed people from Mr. Bogart's camp working with Mr. Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan's camp working with Mr. Bogart's camp. My own personal belief is, I don't think the sheriff was too far off with that comment."
BOGART REBUTTAL: "You need to keep in mind that both Mr. Sullivan and I have been endorsed by Fraternal Order of Police Pasco Lodge 29 ... in our respective parties. You will see me speaking to the same people Bobby speaks to, and vice versa."
DEREMER REBUTTAL: "My personal opinion is that the two are working together in certain things. ... The Fraternal Order of Police, ... I wanted that endorsement so bad and I will sit here and tell you I wanted that endorsement. Why they would endorse somebody (Bogart) that has spoke against the union ... is beyond me. I have no idea."
"Some candidates have criticized the sheriff for being slow to attack the gang problem, or to even recognize it for that matter. He says he doesn't want to frighten the citizens. What do you say?"
BOGART: "I believe it's the ... sheriff's duty to keep the public informed as to all the types of criminal activity that we have, in the hopes that it would prevent some folks from becoming victims. Especially with gangs, the public needs to be aware that they should be reporting graffiti when they see it. If they see gang activity they should be reporting it so that the police can take appropriate action." Bogart was impressed with the "aggressive information campaign" of the New Port Richey Police Department. "I would do exactly that same thing. As sheriff, I would make it a point to hit as many subdivision and civic groups to let people know that the problem exists, to help educate them."
DEREMER: "I don't think the sheriff has fully all the information he needs. His information is off. We definitely have a gang problem. Folks, there's no other way to put it. We say we don't want to scare the public, but it's a fact out there. You need somebody in your command that has dealt with this. My opponent (Bogart) ... sat through this training (at New Port Richey police). I sat through interviews with gang members, I chased gang members, I put gang members in jail. I'm aware of the Latin Kings, the Crips, the ... Nazi supremacists that are prevalent - prevalent in this community - because I've put them in jail. I know the hatred they have toward police. My opponent doesn't. He's never done it" (arrest gang members).
BOGART REBUTTAL: "Once again, my opponent (Deremer) doesn't really understand my history. When I was with the Tampa P.D., we dealt with the Outlaws (motorcycle gang). Being on the bomb squad when the Tampa P.D. was making their raids on the Outlaws headquarters, I was one of the people that went in and actually searched the building for explosives before anyone else could make entry. I worked closely with the vice and narcotics unit and the intelligence unit while they did their investigations. With Pasco County, as major of operations, I worked in conjunction with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office to put together a coalition of our deputies to work with the Hernando deputies to deal with white supremacist groups."
DEREMER REBUTTAL: "This gang problem is not new, it is not new. This was here in the (James) Gillum administration. This was here in the (Lee) Cannon administration. My opponent (Bogart) was a high ranking member of those administrations. But we never spoke about gangs then. Now we just put it out there."
Question to Bogart: "How do you separate yourself from the previous administrations in which you were a top commander, particularly in the Gillum administration, which ended so badly in scandal."
BOGART: Bogart would share his advice. "And sometimes it was listened to and sometimes it was not. I was not the elected sheriff. Unfortunately, that's the way it is. We can't all have our way. But I was a good soldier. If my responsibilities and the orders I were given were not immoral, unethical or simply just wrong, I carried them out. I want people to judge me for what I do. When I left the (Pasco) Sheriff's Office, ... I continued in my personal and professional growth, in my career. And that's what I intend to bring back to the Sheriff's Office."
DEREMER: "The past administrations, Cannon and Gillum, were almost dictatorship administrations. They had zero relationships with the police officers. I will guarantee you in the Department of Corrections our regional directors have influence on the secretary. The difference between me and my opponent (Bogart) is, he is pure administration. I'm a people person. I'm concerned about the deputies. And the past administrations have not been concerned about them."
BOGART REBUTTAL: "I want people to judge me for what I have done, not for ... what the chief law enforcement officers have done in past administrations. While I was at the (Pasco) Sheriff's Office, I was always pursuing professionalism. I was the accreditation manager for a number of years and was able to get the agency initially accredited and then reaccredited. I think that's very progressive."
DEREMER REBUTTAL: "Accreditation, more administration type duties. Why (did Bogart not continue) in actual law enforcement work? (Bogart) did not continue his career in law enforcement. He went through accreditation. My personal opinion of accreditation is that it's need, it's great, but it's simply a set of standards that each agency has to belong to. I want to know the real meat and potatoes. When did you (Bogart) go back on the street and work and put people in jail?"
Question to Deremer: "There's been some discussion in years past about splitting the sheriff's budget off from the general fund, which would give more flexibility and more ability to raise money for the sheriff (office) specifically. What do you think about this subject and how you might go about leading the department in convincing the county to give the sheriff's department more money?"
DEREMER: "I think our sheriff (Bob White), for whatever reason, has very much strained the relationship with the County Commission. They said they were going to give more money for deputies, but he hasn't used that money for deputies, (for) whatever reason why I don't know. It's been that way in past administrations also. ... I came up with the taxation of criminals, which my opponent (Bogart) said would be too expensive for an agency to run. The taxation (plan) would fine people (extra) for DUI, for felony violations of probation and that money goes directly to the sheriff's Office. My opponent said that the Sheriff's Office we don't have the people to collect that money. When you talk about restitution and fines, that's collected by the state department of corrections. It's not collected by an agency. There's nothing else needed by the Sheriff's Office. I'm also in favor of a pay cut in the top administration. I really believe that our top administrators are overpaid and our deputies are underpaid. We need to put more money in our deputies' pockets. Administrators, if you tell me you can't work for $100,000 a year, you've got a problem in Pasco County. Our deputies are the ones that are suffering. They go to Tampa because Tampa pays more. If the (County) Commission approves a raise of 5 percent, I'm not going to go give my human resource director an 18 percent raise. If I can give my deputies more, I'm going to give them more because they're the ones doing the job."
BOGART: "I believe that in order to lobby the county for appropriate funding for the Sheriff's Office, it's important to improve the Sheriff's Office reputation with the commissioners .. and also to do that with the public, so that you have public support as a sheriff when you ask for additional deputies. It would be very difficult for me as a sheriff to stand in front of the County Commission asking for additional deputies when I have from anywhere from 60 to 80 vacant positions in the Sheriff's Office. ... The county had asked for that type of information from the current sheriff. I don't blame them (commissioners) for not finding the money to fund the (additional) deputy positions, given that kind of ... lack of information."
DEREMER REBUTTAL: "I do blame the (County) Commission somewhat. The Commission needs to understand we have an increase in crime right now and we need deputies."
BOGART REBUTTAL: "There's absolutely no question Pasco County has never caught up. In the 22 years I've lived here, we have always been behind the curve on the number of deputies that we should have. It's one of the things that has to be corrected."
Question: "What is the possible solution for getting more deputies?"
DEREMER: "I think we need to start bringing some income to the Sheriff's Office. Right now we don't have any. I want to implement the taxation of criminals. It's nothing new. I didn't invent this idea. Other counties do it and they're having success with it. I don't care if it's a $200,000 increase to put back into the agency. That's several more deputies I can put on the street without having to ask the Commission for. That's several more high-quality vests (to protect deputies) that I don't have to ask the commission for. I also asked for the cuts in salaries for top administration levels. I believe they are overpaid. They're not the ones putting people in jail. We need to pay our deputies more. ... I'd be willing to give back some of my salary (as sheriff). The sheriff makes almost $150,000 a year. That's a lot of money. Heck yes, I'd be willing to give back some of that money to help some of my deputies."
BOGART: "This is going to sound trite and I don't mean it to. A couple hundred thousand dollars (Deremer) was referring to, that would scarcely put three deputies on the road. The cost of not only to hire a deputy, but to train them and to outfit them and provide their benefits, retirement, is considerably more than that ($200,000). I think we have to look first at how we can trim the overall budget of the Sheriff's Office. I'm of the opinion that we should absolutely consider consolidation of some county services with the Sheriff's Office. For example, fleet maintenance, purchasing, 911 and (sheriff) dispatch services. And also look at human resources area as well, and there are others."
DEREMER REBUTTAL: "(Bogart) talks about $200,000 being nothing. Folks, if a citizen came up to me and says (he's) going to give $10,000 to your Sheriff's Office, I'm going to jump on it. That's money that's going back to my men. ... We are in deficit right now. We need deputies. We need equipment. We're underpaid. We need every dime we can get. To laugh at $200,000 is ridiculous."
BOGART REBUTTAL: "I'm not laughing at $200,000. I'm trying to put it into perspective. We are talking about an $86 million budget where between 70 and 80 percent of the budget is payroll expense. These are big dollars. We would have to actually implement a program to do this separate collections service. All the people that we arrest aren't loaded. We're just going to be like getting blood out of a stone. It isn't going to happen. It's going to be wasted effort."
Both Democratic candidates adamantly opposed hiring a private company to operate the county jails instead of the Sheriff's Office.
"Absolutely not," Bogart said.
Deremer said he is "totally against privatizing jails."
BOGART: "I believe that I have prepared myself to be sheriff of Pasco County." He has worked for numerous law enforcement agencies. He has been hired as part of a national consulting company to evaluate agencies, some with 3,000 to 4,000 officers. "I've had an opportunity to be in so many other agencies I want to bring what I have learned elsewhere back to Pasco and address these awful crime problems we're facing and fix these relationship problems we're having ... inside the agency and help to re-establish our rapport with the community we serve."
DEREMER: "We have crime problems, folks. We have people committing violent crimes on an everyday basis. It's time that we get back to putting people in charge that know law enforcement. I no longer want administrators who understand (only) policies and budgets. We need to understand how to reduce this crime rate. We need to have the backbone to get out there and do it. I'm tired of people getting up here and being a politician and smiling for the crowd. ... Who do you really trust? Do you trust the administrator or do you trust the guy who actually is going to war every day?"
Carl Orth can be reached at 727-815-1068 or email@example.com.