New Sheriff, Same LET Game

On June 21st, the PNJ ran an article about a foundation, The Escambia County Sheriff Foundation. This foundation’s mission is, as follows:

The Escambia County Sheriff Foundation, Inc. is a public  501 (c) (3) organization formed to support the mission and employees of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.  We will work to further and foster engagement opportunities while promoting public safety through community outreach.  The Foundation will endeavor to improve the quality of life for every citizen in Escambia County.

There are a few things wrong with this whole thing. While it is supposed to “divorce” the LET money expenditures for the ECSO, it then becomes an agency that handles that money and is less transparent. Let me explain: On April 6, 2018, as part of a huge voucher, the Panhandle Charitable Open received $20K from LET. According to WEAR, after the event, in November that year, $300K was raised, which will benefit 27 non-profits in the area. Now, to explain what the process should be:

  1. The fundraiser fills out an application for the LET funds
  2. The Sheriff approves it
  3. Then it goes to the BOCC for approval.
  4. The check is cut to the charity.
  5. Then the agency receiving the funds must provide an accounting of the LET money as a way to make sure it is properly spent. This is the ECSO’s responsibility.
  6. Lastly, it is submitted to the clerk of court for an audit by them to make sure all the players did what they should.

In Escambia County, as it has under Morgan, this is the process:

  1. The charity can fill out the application, or Morgan offers them money.
  2. He approves it and cuts a check.
  3. He then submits to the BOCC for reimbursement. Since the ECSO, is using their general fund to pay the charity, against statute, the BOCC is more than compelled to reimburse without question.
  4. And no one follows up on how the money is spent. The financial officer at the ECSO advised me that he is not responsible for that follow up paperwork; the clerk of court is. When I emailed the clerk, she acted like I was speaking a foreign language. She claims she didn’t know to check for that, she never has and frankly thought I was making up the particulars of the Statute. I also had to explain that as Comptroller, she is supposed to be the final verification of things being done correctly. She responded by telling me that Bill Eddins had worked out an agreement with the BOCC and worked around that. I told her she can’t be directed to not follow the statute. If the SA is telling you to do something that basically gives a pass on fiscal accountability. The email exchange is here.

Getting back to this foundation, I am not a criminal mastermind, but here is a scenario that seems like a way this process can be perverted. This purely an example I can see happening, since we are still playing by Morgan’s rules, let us review the Panhandle Open from requests funds from LET ($20K in 2017; $30K in 2018); it is approved; the Panhandle Open distributes the money to various charities without accountability to the ECSO. Then these charities can in turn, can use the money to “donate” to this ECSO foundation. It could even end up in a candidate’s donations. Now it is clean….laundered. The more people shuffle the money, the more chance there is for misappropriation PERIOD!

I mentioned the campaign donations because over the years, I have had a few people who were at charity events where Morgan bestowed LET money is a celebratory fashion. He literally handed the chair of organization a check and with the other hand, received checks in exchange. This was done openly and like I said a few people saw this and did not know it was wrong. But it is money laundering.

Real life examples:

Denver Sheriff’s Foundation (This foundation handled donations other than LET, but to the same end)

Milwaukee County Forfeiture Misappropriation

Capistrano Unified School District Foundation (This foundation operates similarly)

Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Charged with RICO violations

Minnehaha, South Dakota Sheriff’s Office & Deputies Association Misuse of Forfeiture Funds

This list is not all inclusive. This is just one problem with this foundation.

The second issue is the composition of the board of directors. It is made up of people that are sketchy. The president is Brian Williams. He is connected to contractors that are committing fraud each day. That is another post soon to be released. The vice president is Whitny Lucas, the wife of a ECSO garage employee Jake Lucas. She is also the girlfriend of Chip Simmons, who is her husband’s boss. This all was revealed in another post.

There are other people on the board, such as Andy Hobbs who is a part of the admin who was promoted because of who he knew, not merit and he is a good friend of Chip. Of course, Tommy Lyter is in the mix. We have Chris Roney who is connected to Williams via Big Brothers & Big Sisters, an organization that was provided for lavishly by LET funds. We also have a Studer connection in DC Reeves. It is mixed in with Lewis Bear’s family. Unfortunately, they are backing Morgan for his mayoral run. This foundation is sit up in the midst of a corrupt agency, not yet cleaned from Morgan; the oversight of the money people who have an interest in receiving LET money. This foundation is easily susceptible to corruption and connected to a corrupt agency…well I think you get the picture.

So we have a vulnerable agency, not so-level board members and money. Draw your own conclusion.

FYI Corruption has certain characteristics, abuse of power (political favors), bribery/coercion, misappropriation of funds, money laundering and eventually tax evasion. All this equals RICO.

Opportunistic Donation Responsible for Lack of Investigation in Deputies Sex Abuse Case?

On October 28, 2014, Sheriff David Morgan presented a check to Gulf Coast Kids House for $50,000. This philanthropic gesture is posted on the ECSO’s Facebook page below.

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The caption with the picture reads as follows: Joining Sheriff Morgan this afternoon were Pam Schwartz, Gulf Coast Kids House Board Chair, Debbie Ritchie and Stan Connally, Co-chairs of Captial Expansion for the Gulf Coast Kids House Board of Directors, and Stacey Kostevicki, Executive Director.

There is a short description of where the funds came from out of the Honorable Sheriff’s budget:

The donation are provided by The State Law Enforcement Trust funds. Under the auspices of Florida Statute, Chapter 932.701-706, “Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act,” law enforcement agencies may seize and forfeit any contraband that have been used in the commissions of felonies to be used in the community.

A couple of local articles thank local felons for this generous donations, which is a very noble way to think of such a donation. In researching the above mentioned, “Law Enforcement Trust” (LET) fund, after perusing the generous donations the Sheriff’s office likes to dole out to private charities in the area, this donation is conspicuously larger than the last 3 years donations to any other organization.

The 2 years prior, in particular, Sheriff Morgan donated a mere $500 each year. What drives such a sizable donation in the first 3 weeks of his fiscal year? This single donation is roughly 20% of his beginning budget in the LET fund of $250,000. The largest other donation in recent years was $15,000 to the National Flight Academy in March, 2014.

Keeping this in mind, the Pensacola News Journal broke the story on March 9, 2015 about Leah & Doug Manning being wanted as well as the arrests of Senior Deputy Mark Smith & Deputy Walter Thomas.  The PNJ states:

In late September or early October of 2014, Thomas allegedly visited spouses Leah and Douglas Manning. A victim allegedly identified the Mannings as “swingers” who had multiple sexual partners.

The victim said that Leah Manning invited her into a bedroom where she engaged in sex acts with Thomas while Douglas Manning recorded the abuse with his cell phone, according to the report.

The victim also reported multiple instances of abuse while visiting Smith in the summer of 2014. The incidents were reported through a child abuse hotline in February. Following an investigation, Smith and Thomas were arrested Friday.”

Being Sheriff Morgan’s biggest fan and knowing that no further investigation was done to see if there were any more victims or offenders within his department while also knowing through a confidential source, who spoke with personnel from the State Attorney’s office at Gulf Coast Kids House, that was baffled to find a LACK of zealousness to push such an investigation, I have to wonder if Sheriff Morgan wrote the biggest check to the state mandated  child abuse advocacy agency in October, after the first complaints came in on Senior Deputy Smith, was this incentive money to keep the ECSO secrets?

This is purely speculation but looking into the timing of this phenomenal check and the investigation into the ECSO for sex offenders who wear badges, seems less than coincidental.

What do you think? Could this be the dirtiest secret in Escambia County?