Former sheriff defends himself
By TAMARA LUSH
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2001
Former Charlotte County Sheriff Richard Worch -- who now is a high-ranking official at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office -- says that the man who took his job in Charlotte County is trying to ruin his life.
"He is an evil man," Worch said Monday of his successor, Bill Clement. "I really dislike that guy."
Worch was reacting to a story published Sunday in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that quoted Clement as saying there were "inappropriate" documents on a computer hard drive that was used by Worch during his three-term tenure as sheriff there. The paper also reported that Clement said the files are embarrassing to the former sheriff.
Clement released some of the contents of the hard drive last week. Those 17 documents were mostly letters, written by Worch about the jail, other county departments and sheriff's department employees. But Clement, on the advice of the agency's lawyers, did not release the personal documents on the hard drive, even though the Herald-Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times requested those documents under Florida public records laws.
If the public found out about the personal documents, Worch said, they probably "wouldn't give a hoot."
"There's nothing on there that would even rise to the level of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky," he said.
Worch, who is a lieutenant colonel at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, threatened to sue Clement if he did release the personal files to the media.
"All I want is what little bit of privacy I have left," Worch said. "I just want what little bit of sanity I have, left alone."
The enmity between Worch and Clement goes back several years, according to published reports. Clement ran against Worch in 1996 and lost. Clement won the 2000 election against Worch in November and immediately hired Worch's predecessor, Glen Sapp, who was convicted of stealing $9,000 in public money while in office. That conviction later was overturned.
Worch said that Clement and Sapp are "malicious" and want to destroy his life.
When reached on his cell phone in Tallahassee, Clement said he doesn't want to ruin Worch's life. He backed off from his earlier comments about Worch's personal files being "inappropriate."
"It's my understanding that any office machine or computer are supposed to be used for sheriff's office business," Clement said Monday. "Any use other than that is inappropriate."
At the end of January, Clement asked agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to retrieve the hard drive, a police scanner and a cell phone from Worch. Clement said he was simply "following the statutes that require (a new sheriff) to account for everything."
Clement's internal affairs employees didn't look at the computer files until March, according to an agency report. That inquiry has been completed, and no documents of a criminal nature were found.
Worch -- who maintains that he bought the hard drive with his own money and installed the equipment in a sheriff's office computer -- said that Clement promised he would return the hard drive.
On Monday, Clement said he has no plans to return the drive.
"It's the property of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office," said Clement, who added he has not looked at anything on the hard drive.
Worch said he wants the drive or a copy of it back.
"I want my letters back," Worch said. "(Clement) has no right to them whatsoever."
- Tamara Lush is the police reporter in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6245. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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