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Sheriff: Fed investigation of Pasco policies a "witch hunt" | News

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Sheriff: Fed investigation of Pasco policies a "witch hunt"

Pasco County, Florida -- The U.S. Department of Labor says the Pasco County Sheriff's Office has violated a major federal labor law, and owes about 46,000 in overtime pay to dozens of deputies who live outside county lines. 

"This just seems to be like a witch hunt," says Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, adding that the Department of Labor has not provided written proof of a federal labor law violation, and has not broken down why the department owes tens of thousands of dollars.

The federal investigation began with a complaint from an employee, possibly one who lives outside Pasco County. 

In order to avoid paying a fee to drive patrol cars outside of county lines for personal use, Pasco patrol deputies who live outside the county can park their patrol cars for free within Pasco. They then must drive their personal cars to the location where the cruiser is parked and take the cruiser to their assigned patrol zone.

According to the Department of Labor's investigation, each deputy who does this should be paid from the minute they get in the patrol car, and are on the clock along the entire drive to their patrol zone. Correspondence from federal officials says any other practice would violate the Federal Labor Standards Act.

Sheriff Nocco says a deputy would not have to be paid for that same commute if they live within Pasco County. The Sheriff's Office has determined that deputies should be counted as on the clock once they arrive in the patrol zone. 

In January, several months after the audit and investigation began, a policy was put together that establishes how much Pasco deputies must pay if they want to drive their patrol cars to and from home if they live in a different county. In Pinellas County, deputies who live in contiguous counties must pay 29 cents a mile. In Hillsborough County, it's 50 cents a mile.   

"What are [the Department of Labor's] allegations? What are they based upon? Why are they doing this?" asked Sheriff Nocco during a press conference on Tuesday.

10 News tried to reach out to multiple investigators and officials with the Department of Labor, but only received the response that the matter with the Sheriff's Office is an "open investigation".

"We've been fully supportive and cooperative. They've come in and asked us for information. We've provided it," Nocco explained at the conference. "All we ask in return is what are they doing? What information do they have? What are they basing this off of? And where did they come up with the number $46,000?"

And as for what he plans to do about it...

"As long as the federal government keeps playing this game, we'll keep dragging it out."


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