GCSO chief deputy subject of probe

GLADES COUNTY — A ranking member of Glades County Sheriff Stuart Whiddon’s command staff is currently the subject of an ongoing internal affairs investigation.

According to Sheriff Whiddon his chief deputy, Duane Pottorff, is under an administrative investigation for his involvement in using a county jail inmate to work at the site of a political rally last week.

The inmate, a male trustee at the Glades County Jail, was apparently taken to a ranch in Lakeport where a fundraiser was reportedly held for Glades County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) Deputy David Hardin, a candidate for Glades County sheriff.

Sheriff Whiddon is retiring.

Deputy Hardin is currently on a leave of absence from his GCSO road-patrol position.

When contacted by phone Thursday, June 30, Sheriff Whiddon said he didn’t know how long the trustee was at the site or what he did.

The internal investigation is being done by GCSO Detective Captain Mike Pepitone.

“From what I’ve heard so far from Capt. Pepitone, it’s a minor situation and we’re going to handle it inside the department,” said Sheriff Whiddon. “No one is suspended right now and Chief Deputy Pottorff is still working at this point.”

The sheriff went on to point out that Deputy Hardin is not a part of the investigation.

“He has nothing to do with this,” noted the sheriff.

Even though the use of a county inmate for this purpose could be a violation of Florida statutes, the sheriff stressed the point that there was no criminal intent by his chief deputy. The investigation is being done to determine if any of the agency’s policies or procedures were violated.

Under Florida state statute 951.01 county prisoners can be put to labor by a county’s board of county commissioners on the roads, bridges or other public works of the county where they are imprisoned.

Prisoners can also be used by the county on projects “… for which the governing body of the county could otherwise lawfully expend public funds and which it determines to be necessary for the health, safety and welfare of the county.”

Florida state statute 946.42 deals with the use of inmates on private property and states they are allowed on private property to do public works to: accept and collect donations for the use and benefit of the department; and to assist federal, state, local and private agencies before, during and after emergencies or disasters.

Statute 951.05 allows for county jail inmates to be hired out, but to other counties. The inmates can only work on public roads, bridges, farms or other public works owned and operated by that county.

That statute goes on to say inmates can be used on projects for which the governing body of the county could otherwise lawfully expend public funds and which it determines to be necessary for the health, safety and welfare of the county.

“The money derived from the hire of such prisoners shall be paid to the county hiring out such prisoners, and placed to the credit of the fine and forfeiture fund of the county,” adds that statute.

Sheriff Whiddon said he didn’t know at this point how long it will take Capt. Pepitone to complete his probe.

“I’m not going to press him,” said the sheriff, adding that the detective is also working a number of criminal cases.

Sheriff Whiddon pointed out that he was elected 12 years ago and Chief Deputy Pottorff has held that position the entire time.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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