Published: October 20, 2012
By ELIZABETH JOHNSON — firstname.lastname@example.org
A deputy filed a complaint in August against Lt. John Andrews for using items at his home that were purchased by the sheriff’s office in May 2011 to paint the floor of the aviation unit’s hangar. Documents state the deputy waited to report the situation because Andrews was his direct supervisor and he “did not
feel comfortable having to tell a lieutenant that stealing from the sheriff’s office was wrong.”
After inmates cleaned and painted the hangar floor, Andrews took a box with two paint kits and a gallon of cleaner, worth a total $227, without permission to redo his garage, documents state.
Other leftover items were stored for touch-up purposes at the hangar, and a deputy told Andrews they could also be returned for a refund.
Andrews, who joinedthe sheriff’s office in 1996, told the internal investigator that he “wasn’t thinking very clearly” and regretted his actions, but was under the impression the leftover items would be discarded or stored at the hangar, documents state.
On Oct. 1, Andrews was told that termination would be the proposed discipline, and he subsequently requested an appeal. The following day, the office was informed local defense attorney Mark Lipinski would represent Andrews, who resigned Oct. 3 before his appeal hearing, documents state.
“I moved to terminate him as soon as I received word of what the state attorney’s office was going to be doing,” said Sheriff Brad Steube, adding that state law mandates a five-day window for a law enforcement officer to dispute that decision if they so choose. “He decided, I guess on the advice of his attorney, to resign. When he resigns, he gets whatever benefits are coming to him, and I have no control over that.”
Steube said all details of any given complaint or allegation are considered before discipline is rendered.
“He converted publicly owned property for his personal use, that, on the heel of the huge investigation I had at the jail, I think is self-explanatory,” Steube said, referring to an eight-month investigation that revealed two high-ranking officers at the Manatee County jail participated in conduct unbecoming a deputy when they used sheriff’s office equipment for personal gain and let others do the same.
“The only difference between the fact I went for termination here opposed to what we did at the jail is I had proof, by not only a witness but by his own admission,” Steube said.
“(At the jail) we didn’t have any proof, didn’t have the criminal intent. In most of those instances, each one of those people involved in using or borrowing that equipment were given permission by a supervisor, and that went all the way up to the major at the time who already left the sheriff’s office.”
In that case, former Maj. James Higginbotham and former Sgt. Frank “Buddy” Parks each retired before the investigation was completed, leaving the sheriff’s office with unjeopardized pensions.
Neither had criminal charges filed against them by the state attorney’s office.
The situation led to allegations of embezzlement, which were determined unfounded in a probe requested by Steube in April and completed by an audit team within the office of Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Chips Shore. The investigation did find insufficient record-keeping that has been remedied with a new work order system at the jail.
“In this particular case, he’s using this property for his personal use,” Steube said. “I’m not going to condone people stealing from us, especially when we can prove it. It’s obvious to me, and anyone who would read the report, that he took property that didn’t belong to him and that flies in the face of what we’re doing here.”
Andrews is charged with petit theft. On Oct. 3, he signed a non-arrest-deferred prosecution agreement with the state attorney’s office and was placed in the pre-trial intervention program until Dec. 31.
As part of the agreement, Andrews must pay processing and supervision costs and make restitution of $227 to the sheriff’s office.
Elizabeth Johnson, Herald crime reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter @EJohnsonBHcrime.