Florida Keys News
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Ex-candidates say actions retaliatory

MONROE COUNTY -- Sheriff's Sgt. Jake Brady, who ran against sheriff-elect and current Col. Rick Ramsay in the Republican primary last summer, is the target of a new internal affairs investigation and has been transferred away from the Marathon sector after 23 years on the post.

In addition, Brady was told by Marathon officials last week that he must leave his city-owned rental unit on Sombrero Beach Road by the end of February.

Meanwhile, Bill Grove, a Monroe County State Attorney's Office investigator who also ran against Ramsay in the Republican primary, has seen his access to the Sheriff's Office's investigative records system known as Smartcop revoked, also in the weeks after Ramsay's general election victory on Nov. 6.

Both Brady and Grove ran campaigns that were highly critical of Ramsay and the Sheriff's Office guard, accusing the agency of being a patronage network that values loyalty above all else.

Under state law, neither Brady nor Sheriff's Office officials can reveal the nature of the investigation that has been opened against him in recent weeks, but Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Becky Herrin did acknowledge that one is under way.

Sheriff Bob Peryam notified Brady in a Nov. 13 memorandum that he is to be transferred this week from the Marathon substation to a posting at Key West International Airport. The transfer didn't come with a pay cut or a demotion in rank, and Peryam called it an "equivalent position" in that Nov. 13 memo.

But Brady, who also works a second job at the American Airlines office at Key West airport, said he views things differently in an interview last week.

"There was no reason I was given," he said of the transfer. "Usually when you get transferred down to the airport it's for disciplinary reasons. That's the boneyard."

Both Peryam and Ramsay, who were out of town late last week, declined interviews with the Free Press and instead referred questions to Herrin. She too declined a phone interview, but did agree to take questions via email about the actions regarding Brady and Grove. The transfer of Brady, she said, had nothing to do with the recent election. But she didn't provide any clarity on the reason behind the transfer.

"Sheriff Peryam made the decision to transfer Sgt. Brady to an equivalent position at the Key West Airport," Herrin wrote in response to a direct question about the matter.

Marathon officials were more elaborative in explaining at a Nov. 27 council meeting why they planned to remove Brady from the Sombrero Beach home.

The three-bedroom unit was made available to Brady for $500 a month when he moved in a decade ago under a program intended to assist the sheriff's Marathon sector by providing low-cost housing to officers.

"He's approaching 10 years at a rate that was established in 2003 when he was a junior officer and had the lower incoming type of salary," Marathon City Manager Roger Hernstadt said in a Free Press interview last week. "He's gotten a lot of raises over the past several years. It's time to give somebody else the benefit."

Sheriff's Office records show that Brady's salary has increased from $47,300 in early 2003 to $73,200 now.

Still, Brady said the timing of the city's decision, coming soon after the general election, makes him wonder.

"In my opinion, this is what happens when a commoner stands up against the wealthy and well-connected," he said.

He said he wasn't even informed by the city of the decision before he read about it in the newspaper. Furthermore, he said that Hernstandt and the council neglected to mention at the public meeting that, in addition to paying rent as a tenant of the Sombrero Beach property, Brady is required to open and close the public beach area every day of the year. The work takes two hours daily and accounts for much of the difference between Brady's rent and the market rate, he said.

Marathon, Brady noted, is Ramsay's home base, though he stopped short of saying he believes the presence of the sheriff-elect's father, Dick Ramsay, on the City Council was a factor in his removal from the home.

Hernstadt said it was he who brought the matter forward after noticing it in a year-end review of city affairs, and not Ramsay or another council member.

"It was not political," Hernstadt said.

Grove, meanwhile, is unabashed in saying that the Sheriff's Office decision to end his access to Smartcop last month was political.

"This is only the latest attempt after the election by the Sheriff's Office to retaliate against me for running," Grove said.

Smartcop is the system that investigators use to view incidents reports, research the criminal history of suspects and to obtain contact information for victims and witnesses.

The denial of access to Grove likely won't have much practical effect on his work output. State Attorney-elect Catherine Vogel has informed Grove that she won't retain him when she enters office next month, he said, and he doesn't expect to start any new investigations in the meantime.

The Sheriff's Office deemed it a necessary security matter, Herrin wrote in last week's email.

"The Sheriff's Office was no longer confident in Mr. Grove's honesty and integrity," she wrote. "It is imperative for our office to be confident in the integrity of everyone who has access to our secure computer system."

Herrin didn't respond when questioned whether the denial of access had anything to do with Grove's run for office.

Grove, in response, said he has never used Smartcop for any purpose other than State Attorney's Office business while at the office.

He dismissed the Sheriff's Office allegation as a retaliatory character attack.

"I have concerns about the honestly and integrity of the leadership of the Sheriff's Office," he said.

Though Brady and Grove have experienced difficulties in the days after the election, the scenario has been different for Deputy Matt Koval, who ran his own anti-administration campaign in a losing Democratic primary effort against Tom Peteck.

Koval was the subject of two Internal Affairs cases during the campaign, but he said he's been free of any issues in its aftermath.

"Nothing has changed for me," he said last week. "I hope it stays that way."

rsilk@keysnews.com

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