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AM-MCSO in squabble about enforcement

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Anna Maria commissioners and Mayor Mike Selby appear headed for a showdown with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office about the duties of deputies assigned to the MCSO-Anna Maria substation.

At the commission’s Aug. 14 budget work session, Commissioner SueLynn said it was time to discuss the $675,000 contract the city has with the MCSO for law enforcement services. She’s not sure if the city is receiving a fair value for its dollar, particularly in light of an Aug. 14 letter from Sgt. Dave Turner, head of the substation, suggesting deputies will not perform code enforcement duties.

Turner did not attend the meeting.

The letter apparently surprised commissioners, including Commission Chair Chuck Webb, who said the city has a contract providing that “the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is supposed to uphold our codes.”

Webb said city codes are city laws and the contract says MCSO deputies will enforce city laws.

Turner states in the letter that deputies are not code enforcement officers, while also claiming they have gone beyond their duty to assist the city’s code enforcement officer.

The main issue appears to be the MCSO’s response to noise and nuisance calls. Turner’s letter states his deputies are responding when possible, but they will not issue citations.

Hold on a second, Webb said.

Codes are laws, but the deputies apparently don’t want to enforce some codes because “that’s not their vision of law enforcement,” he said.

Regardless, Webb continued, “They have contracted to enforce our laws.”

Webb said Turner’s reference to Manatee County’s noise ordinance has nothing to do with Anna Maria.

“Our codes are our laws and they are no different than 90 percent of other cities,” Webb said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he added.

Selby said city attorney Jim Dye would meet with Michelle Hall, the MCSO attorney, to hopefully iron out the issue. Selby said Dye, who was not at the work session, believes the MCSO contract requires deputies to enforce city laws and Dye has state statutes to back up the city’s position.

Webb said he also would attend the meeting and Selby and other commissioners agreed.

“We need to establish a chain of command, of who is in charge,” Webb added.

“We didn’t have any confusion with our last supervisor, so the current issue is how is the contract being carried out,” said Webb.

Commissioner John Quam said the city should not sign its MCSO contract for law enforcement for 2012-13 until the issue of who is in charge and what laws are enforced is resolved.

“They can’t pick and choose what they are going to enforce,” Selby said.

But, Webb added, if there is a new MCSO policy in Anna Maria, the city might want to change or amend the 2012-13 contract with the sheriff.

“It may cost us some money” but the city needs to know what to expect from the MCSO, Webb said.

Commissioners agreed to hold the $675,000 contract out of the proposed $2.3 million budget until Dye and Webb report back to commissioners at their Aug. 21 meeting.

“There’s something strange going on here,” said Webb, a former county attorney for Broward and Charlotte counties before moving to Anna Maria and establishing a private law practice.

After the meeting, Selby told The Islander that Dye and the MCSO attorney met Aug. 15 to iron out the issues, and Dye would have a full report for commissioners at the Aug. 23 city meeting.

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