Lee sheriff denies accusations of political firing, demotion of deputies

Tim Fisher, candidate for Lee County sheriff

www.fisherforlee.com

Tim Fisher, candidate for Lee County sheriff

"Mike Scott is very concerned about his kingdom and his regime," Tim Fisher said.

Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott

Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott

Staff is "free to support any candidate they want to off-duty," Sheriff Mike Scott said.

— The dismissal last week of a Lee County deputy has a police union crying foul, accusing Sheriff Mike Scott of punishing the man for supporting one of the sheriff's election opponents.

Scott, however, is defending the decision to fire Deputy Dana Berry, a school resource officer in Cape Coral, in the wake of two complaints this month.

Documents obtained by the Daily News show two complaints lodged against Berry, the first as the result of a traffic stop April 5 when he held a woman in his patrol car for 30 minutes. The second came less than a week later, April 11, when a parent at the middle school where Berry was assigned reported a verbal altercation with the deputy.

Tim Fisher, Berry's supervisor in the Sheriff's Office, said the deputy was fired not because of the complaints, but rather for his support of Fisher's campaign against Scott in the race for Lee County sheriff.

"To say this is politically motivated is an understatement," Fisher said.

As a recent hire, the deputy's first six months back in duty were a probationary period, when officers aren't afforded the same employment protections and can be dismissed without cause.

Scott said Berry was rehired in October 2011 "against probably my better judgment" after a stint trying to work in aviation. He called Berry's track record with the agency "spotty at best," citing his several voluntary departures from working with the Sheriff's Office.

The ax came down April 17 for Berry, who since 1995 has worked on and off for the Sheriff's Office.

Until those complaints came along, "Dana was coasting along very well," Scott said Saturday, adding however that after those reports were received, "in sum total, I was uncomfortable keeping him."

But Fisher alleged Berry's termination is part of a larger effort by Scott to intimidate those who oppose his re-election. Fisher described the climate in the Sheriff's Office as having "elements of a mafioso mentality" that made it "difficult for subordinates to run" for office.

The International Union of Police Associations, which in Lee County represents deputies and sergeants in the Sheriff's Office, issued a statement that its attorneys will challenge Dana Berry's termination on the grounds that he has been denied his First Amendment rights and due process.

Fisher said he met Berry through the Sheriff's Office 17 years ago and they became friends. Berry supported his campaign off-duty, and appeared in photos and videos on the campaign website.

The International Union of Police Associations, which in Lee County represents deputies and sergeants in the Sheriff's Office, issued a statement that its attorneys will challenge Berry's termination on the grounds that he has been denied his First Amendment rights and due process.

Scott's actions were "highly suspicious," said Rich Roberts, a spokesman for the union.

"All the indications are that this was more political than it had to do with the deputy's performance," Roberts said.

Attempts to reach Berry for comment were unsuccessful.

Fisher also considers the lateral transfer of two more of his supporters within the Sheriff's Office — a lieutenant and a captain — to be scare tactics as well.

"Mike Scott is very concerned about his kingdom and his regime," Fisher said.

Scott acknowledged the transfers, but said they weren't demotions and affected neither pay nor rank of the two officers.

Fisher said the transfers were perceived as demotions because they were less desirable positions — in one case, reassignment to night shift for a lieutenant, and in another, the removal of a captain from a position supervising 15 staffers to one overseeing four.

If deputies don't like a lateral transfer, "they are going to call it a demotion," Scott said.

Neither the transfers nor Berry's dismissal were politically motivated, Scott insisted.

He said he communicated to staff through email that participation in campaigns was fine, as long as it wasn't on agency time.

Staff is "free to support any candidate they want to off-duty," Scott said Saturday.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 14

Klaatu writes:

LIES AND DENIES
Always the first words out of his mouth !

Patton writes:

Mike Scott, Rick Scott, what a pair. Liars and phonies both of them.

Patton writes:

in response to SoldierStrong:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

StepUpToBat writes:

in response to Patton:

If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

Great answer! LOL

Now sure I'd go with the Union, but I'm positive I can't handle much more of Mike Scott the Gestapo. At least the Mafia has more checks and balances. I'm almost afraid to drive thru Lee County. And God forbid you have a family member with a mental illness. He'll have them "whacked" one way or another. Put him out to pasture with his buddy out in Alva.

angrytxpyr writes:

I can only read this and wonder why Collier County has a limp wrist mamby pamby Sheriff and Lee gets a man like Mike Scott. Hey mike I'll help ya move if you would like to. Union cry baby's should quit makinng themselves look worse than they are, who cares if its political or not. Unions black list people all the time, talk behind their backs while talking to them face to face as if they were their friends only to shove the knife in deeper every time they get a chance. I feel safe every time I leave Collier County and travel in Lee County because the Sherrif has the nutz to keep his organization in line and the nutz to admit to and fix problems with staff and operations, very much the opposite of Colliers Sheriff. Maybe we could swap for a year or so and see how the LCSO likes the lack of leadership and accountability. Sounds like the former LCSO Deputy has an option or two to fall back on with his free time, most private and Government jobs would give you one chance to leave and come back if you were a good employee, sounds like that guy was just an IDIOT and thought he was owed something. Funny how most Union guys feel their owed something and can do as they please with no repercussions!!!

Just1 writes:

Lee County has a Sheriff that does not get pushed around and stands up for what he believes.

Rummm writes:

in response to Just1:

Lee County has a Sheriff that does not get pushed around and stands up for what he believes.

Ditto!

angrytxpyr writes:

After reading a few of Tim Fishers statements that he has made in this story I would have to point out that Sheriff Mike Scott would have a very good reason to either suspend Mr. Fisher or remove him from his position immediately. The comments he has made are clearly politically motivated, display the LCSO and its Top Cop in a negative manner and stronly suggest that Mike Scott is doing harm to the residents, visitor and TAXPAYERS of Lee County while he attends to internal Sheriffs Office business. Mr. Fisher has also made comments as a sworn Lee County LEO in regards to operations at the LCSO and connected those comments directly to his campaign for Sheriff. Mike Scott himself can verify their is a Federal law that prohibits campaign activity while representing the agency that employs them. I believe its called the Marchman Act or something of that nature. Mr. Fisher and his band of disgruntled girlfriends should work inside the agency to improve their work conditions and accountability for all or they can head South and apply for a position with CCSO. I'm sure they would be more than able to run roughshod over the Sheriff, fellow deputy's and the general public as they seem to want to do in their present gig. What did the babys demand for canine officers? Free once a week carpet cleaning and vehicle detailing or something like that. YOU DON"T WANT TO CLEAN YOUR OWN CARPET THEN GIVE UP THE $10,000 TAXPAYER PROVIDE PET YA BIG FLIPPING BABY'S. It seems the Union friendly Tim Fisher should run an honest and positive campaign because I think the negative one him and his Union friends is running is going to cost a few more careers before its abandoned, who cares if the dismissals are justified or political payback the bottom line the LCSO Deputys are sworn to do a job and that job does not include undermining the authority or respect of the Sheriff!!!

HPG writes:

"Mike Scott is very concerned about his kingdom and his regime," Fisher said.

Yeah, Mike is sweating bullets with 200k in his campaign account and you with a couple bucks in the till? NOT

Give me a break Timmy, you and those cry baby followers need to get a box of tissues. Whaaaa Whaaa Whaaaa

You aren't worthy to shine Mike Scotts shoes!

Scarlettrcd writes:

in response to HPG:

"Mike Scott is very concerned about his kingdom and his regime," Fisher said.

Yeah, Mike is sweating bullets with 200k in his campaign account and you with a couple bucks in the till? NOT

Give me a break Timmy, you and those cry baby followers need to get a box of tissues. Whaaaa Whaaa Whaaaa

You aren't worthy to shine Mike Scotts shoes!

You are so right HPG, not many political, public figures hold a candle to Mike Scott. I have known Mike and his family since 1978 and a more honest, straight forward, sincere person I have rarely met. Why does the attorney have to make it about anything but his clients job performance - because he has to take the lime light off his substandard client and make it about something that has no bearing. Mike, you continue to serve the people as you always have, stand strong under fire as you always have and maintain your integrity, AS YOU ALWAYS HAVE. And we will continue to stand by you.

GadsdenGirl writes:

Sounds like Fisher is the one with the political aganda. If the Chief is listening to complaints being filed by the public, more power to him. This fact seems to be lost in all the BS political arguments.

anotherPOV writes:

The question is: are these just some of the people Scott has fired or transfered to unwanted positions or are they the only ones?

P.S.
You can't be the brightest bulb in the chandelier if you openly campaign for your boss to lose his job.

LovesBS writes:

Poor Mike...having to deal with cops and criminals is a tough job. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference!

tellitlikeitis14 writes:

So Sheriff Scott says Deputy Berry's work reoord was spotty at best, citing voluntary departures. Yet, Sheriff Scott hired him back each time. Pretty convincing evidence that Deputy Berry was a competent employee to be taken back each time. So which is it Sheriff Scott, your hiring practices are questionable, or you're trying to justify the dismissal by citing two allged complaints which made you feel uncomfortable. Glad I'm not a Lee County Deputy, so much for progressive discipline.

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