Derelict deputies are fired, punished
Internal affairs investigations end in penalties for several at the Sheriff's Office.
By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published May 2, 2007
TAMPA -- The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office has fired one deputy and penalized another for carrying on relationships that interfered with their work.
The department suspended a school resource officer for five days and moved him to a patrol position after investigators learned he neglected his job duties and sent sexually charged poems to a middle school teacher, Sgt. Danny Tewmey said.
In an unrelated incident, a detention deputy resigned from the Sheriff's Office amid an inquiry into a relationship she had with an inmate, a felon being held at the facility where she worked. The Sheriff's Office later took the extra step of formally dismissing her, Tewmey said.
Those are among more than a dozen cases of deputies and other Hillsborough sheriff's employees disciplined recently in internal affairs investigations.
Deputy Melvin Jones, 40, worked as a school resource officer in 2005 and 2006, Tewmey said.
Jones first worked at Jennings Middle School, where he began a friendship with a female teacher. It's unclear whether their relationship was sexual, but it was such a distraction that Jones was inattentive to his duties as a resource officer, internal affairs investigators ruled.
Jones, who joined the agency in 1993, was transferred to Burns Middle School, but the situation continued to get in the way of his job duties, school administrators told the Sheriff's Office.
"They would call him to perform those duties, and whenever they called him, they found he wasn't available," Tewmey said. "It was either because of phone conversations or time he was spending with her."
Another deputy, Nora Gupton, resigned during an internal affairs investigation into her relationship with a jail inmate. She was accused of untruthfulness and associating with criminals.
Investigators say Gupton, 37, had a five-month relationship with an inmate held at the Orient Road Jail, the facility where Gupton worked.
Gupton and the inmate talked frequently, both over the phone and in person during Gupton's shift, Tewmey said.
The report did not identify the inmate, and when asked about it, Tewmey said Tuesday it was not in his records.
Gupton told investigators she and the inmate had no physical relationship, but letters between the two suggested otherwise.
"There was nothing that indicated they had a physical relationship while they were in the jail," Tewmey said. "The letters do indicate a physical relationship between the two of them."
Among the other cases resolved:
- A longtime Sheriff's Office employee received a three-day suspension and was transferred to other duties after investigators determined she didn't verify college transcripts of deputies who claimed to have college degrees. Carolyn Shepherd, a 50-year-old training specialist, failed to check out transcripts and allowed deputies to receive $3, 270 in educational incentive pay for phony degrees, Tewmey said. A Sheriff's Office audit of Shepherd's work found "incomplete and inaccurate records, all dealing with salary incentives, " Tewmey said. Shepherd joined the Sheriff's Office in 1983.
- A detention deputy in charge of transporting inmates received a six-day suspension after one of his prisoners briefly escaped inside Tampa General Hospital. On Feb. 13, Deputy Jeffrey James took inmate Darrel Carter, accused of trespassing, to Tampa General for a medical procedure. Carter went to the restroom in a second-floor room, and he closed the door part of the way, Tewmey said. After a short time, James didn't hear any noise, and he checked the restroom. Carter had slipped out another way, and he made it down one floor near the emergency room exit before he was caught, Tewmey said. James, 38, joined the agency in 2000 and still transports inmates.
Abbie VanSickle can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.