BY THE OBSERVER STAFF
1) Please provide a few statistics and explain why they are indicative of the state of the Sheriff’s office today.
During the 2002-03 budget year, two years after the current Volusia County Sheriff took office, there were 268 sworn officers assigned to law enforcement services, while administrative services totaled 78 positions. The law enforcement division includes road patrol, investigations, school resource officers, technical and special services, among others. There were 192,348 calls for service during this calendar year period.
The Sheriff’s current fiscal year, 2011-12, budget estimates 330,000 calls for service, a 58.2% increase, while law enforcement services personnel has only increased by 11%, to 298, including additional investigators. Administrative services experienced a 208% increase in personnel during the same period, ballooning from 78 positions in 2002, to 240 positions this year. This is a total misallocation of resources and personnel dollars.
Financial mismanagement of taxpayer dollars is rampant throughout the agency. Tele-communicator supervisors have been paid up to $40,611.94 in overtime during the first seven months of 2012, in a communications department that has consistently been responsible for in excess of 100,000 overtime hours per year. From Jan. 1, 2012, through July 20, 2012, the top 13 overtime earning employees of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office have been paid $308,000 in overtime. The hours required to accumulate this amount of overtime in a seven-month period does create a public safety hazard.
This frivolous allocation of funds has led to the elimination of 73 school crossing guard positions, cutting the number of school resource deputies in half and disbanding the crimes against seniors division. Helicopters are a priority with the current Sheriff. While he stated in 2009 that the Sheriff’s Office had purchased a “third helicopter at no expense to the taxpayer,” the reality is that there was a $3.7 million bond issued by Volusia County for that purchase and “other Sheriff’s vehicles.” Taxpayers are currently paying the bond until its 2014 maturity.
2) What’s an example that illustrates your ability to perform as a manager?
A true manager identifies problems and irregularities, such as I have done above, and corrects the deficiencies. Without identification of the problem, there cannot be a solution. And as stated above, there are many problems identified, both financially and managerially. We must do a much better job and wisely use and protect the assets taxpayers have allotted us.
3) Why should people vote for you instead of your opponent?
If the citizens want a cop as their Sheriff, they will vote for me. If the citizens want a politician, they will not. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office must be returned to an efficient, non-political, law enforcement agency. Law enforcement through community policing, and respecting the rights of our citizens, needs to once again become our priority while maximizing our financial assets.
I, as with all my officers, will be vigilant in the protection of seniors, and all citizens of Volusia County through courtesy, respect and professionalism.
The following is a synopsis of a follow-up interview in The Observer offices:
Wendell Bradford was critical of Sheriff Ben Johnson’s tenure.
“He has been misusing tax payers’ money for years, it’s consistent,” Branford said. “We need leadership that’s going to come in here and say we need to work on this, and this is how we’re going to do it.”
Bradford sees the current number of deputies, which he feels is too low, as one of Johnson’s shortcomings.
“The budget says between 2002 and 2012, he’s only hired 32 deputy sheriffs,” Bradford said. “For every 1,000 citizens, you should have a deputy sheriff…We’re not even close.”
Bradford didn’t specify any changes to the budget, saying he would need more information before doing so.
“I cannot make an informed decision…until I get in office,” he said. “We need to do a complete audit of the Sheriff’s office.”
Bradford indicated skepticism of Johnson’s claims, with statistics, that the crime rate has decreased, saying that, “Numbers can be misleading.”
Bradford claims that Johnson has manipulated the statistics to indicate a lower crime rate.
“Crime is not down,” he said, adding that the rate is actually stagnant. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Bradford also contends a difference between and Johnson is the way they lead.
“I am boots on the ground,” he said. “We don’t need a politician out there…I’m here to help.”
A vote for Bradford, according to him, “will bring you leadership, will bring you somebody that’s gonna be working for you, somebody with the education and the experience to do the job, and discipline will be done accordingly, equally, and fairly…[a vote for Bradford] would bring new leadership, new directions for the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.
“We need a new direction here…they (the people of Ormond Beach) don’t feel as though they are being properly informed out here and properly taken care of.”