FORT LAUDERDALE — A Broward State Attorney’s Office review of the Broward Sheriff’s Office off-duty detail work program may turn into a full scale criminal investigation, the South Florida Times has learned.
Tim Donnelly, who heads the SAO’s Special Investigations Unit that handles public corruption cases, and his staff are gathering information from BSO on the matter, said State Attorney’s Office spokesperson Ron Ishoy.
“When that's done, he'll assign the prosecutor, who is working on finishing several other cases right now,” Ishoy said.
BSO, which is one of the largest fully accredited law enforcement agencies in the country, said it will cooperate with the investigation and provide whatever information is needed or requested.
Jim Leljedal, director of media relations with the sheriff’s office, said he was unaware that a prosecutor would be assigned to the case.
“That’s news to me,” Leljedal said. “I mean, I wouldn’t be the first to know. But we always assist them in whatever they want to do.”
Off-duty detail assignments are given to off-duty deputies who earn extra money to provide security, crowd control or a general law enforcement presence at private firms or government agencies. BSO’s program is run by its Office of Special Detail which underwent an internal audit earlier this year. That audit turned up numerous problems and even more questions about its operations.
“Keep in mind this was our audit. I don’t know of any other department that has done this,” Leljedal said. “We worked over 300,000 hours of special details and the problems that we found were in less than one half of one percent of them.”
The audit found instances of some deputies working details while they were supposed to be at work at regular jobs. In some cases, deputies worked details while they were off work due to on-the- job injuries and receiving worker’s compensation pay. Some deputies performed off-duty work while on sick leave, the audit found. The practice is termed double-dipping and it prompted a review by prosecutors.
A SIMILAR CASE
The announcement that the State Attorney’s Office plans to assign a prosecutor to the BSO case is coming less than a week after Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents arrested a Golden Beach police officer on several charges, including double-dipping while working off-duty details.
In that case FDLE agents charged Sgt. Lynn Dean Peters, 45, of Ft. Lauderdale, with one count of organized scheme to defraud, one count of grand theft, insurance fraud and 11 counts of official misconduct. Peters is charged with working off-duty details while on duty. He also allegedly falsified records related to his detail work. FDLE is not monitoring the BSO case, a spokesman said.
Leljedal said BSO has tightened its rules to minimize the chances for abuse.
“A new policy has been written and distributed. The controls are tighter. The policy has been revised and there less likelihood of abuse,” Leljedal said.
Officials at the state attorney’s office would not discuss the scope of their investigation. However it may include an anonymous complaint sent to BSO Internal Affairs alleging fraud by deputies when they work details escorting funerals. The complaint alleges supervisors pressured a deputy to falsify the number of hours he worked escorting funerals and, when he refused, he was no longer allowed to escort funerals.
Another issue prosecutors may probe is the separate detail program run from BSO headquarters in 2010 during Super Bowl week called the NFL VIP Detail. Col. Rick Frey has told the South Florida Times that he organized the program and that it was approved but would not say who approved it.
“I also want to restate to you that Col. Frey not (sic) personally organize the NFL VIP employment,” Leljedal said in e-mail sent to the South Florida Times this week. “His role was as co-chair of the entire public safety committee and there is no issue with how the security operation was handled.”
Among other things, the Super Bowl detail program listed Sheriff Al Lamberti’s teenage son on official documents along with deputies, giving an indication he was a sheriff’s department employee. The documents also stated he was part of the BSO security team assigned to the Super Bowl. The documents in question got the teenager a security clearance and credentials, which gave him unrestricted access to the game and Sun Life Stadium.
The South Florida Times has made several public records requests to the sheriff’s office for those documents, without success.
“There are no public records relating to the people listed,” Leljedal responded. “Those people took time off and worked for the NFL for a few days.”
BSO did provide the names of nine people who worked the VIP detail, but did not provide any documents.
When asked who completed documents that indicated the sheriff’s son was on the BSO security team, Leljedal said, “It is not clear who listed Nick Lamberti.”
Elgin Jones may be reached at EJones@SFLTimes.com