tampabay.com

Q&A on Sheriff White's ride

'That Tahoe was a good deal,' his spokesman says.

By THOMAS LAKE
Published October 1, 2006


Questioning the purchase

When a sheriff buys himself a luxurious sport utility vehicle with taxpayer money, questions arise. But Sheriff Bob White refused to be interviewed.

When the Times asked his chief spokesman, Kevin Doll, why White needed an SUV, Doll told of a time in the aftermath of a hurricane when White drove stranded deputies to their homes. The interview picks up from there. Some phrasing has been edited for clarity.

Q: What is the total number of emergency calls that Sheriff White has responded to that have required four-wheel drive?

A: He doesn't keep records of that, so I really can't answer that. But the sheriff doesn't respond to a lot of emergency calls. I mean, he will initiate traffic stops, like his infamous one before (when he stopped a speeder but didn't run a license check), but that obviously does not require four-wheel drive.

Q: What, if anything, do leather seats and a Bose sound system have to do with emergency response?

A: They don't. When he was looking at getting a new Tahoe, the ones they had available, they had those options. He had to try to find one that didn't have the DVD and the sunroof. At that time, that's the vehicle the sheriff wanted. That's at his discretion. He got good pricing.

Q: What made White decide to buy from Castriota Chevrolet when he might have saved money through the Florida Sheriffs Association contract?

A: He did not go with the state contract because that can take 60 to 90 days. (Doll also said the sheriff prefers to buy locally.)

Q: Why did he need it right away?

A: I don't know if there was any particular urgency.

Q: Is it because owner Tom Castriota donated $500 to White's campaign in 2004?

A: That Tahoe was a good deal. There's a lot of people who contribute to the sheriff.

Q: How can he justify this after publicly comparing his department to a Third World country?

A: A Third World country has needs. Obviously, we're not a Third World country. But we do have needs.