The issue: Florida Resign-to-Run statute.
Our Opinion: Law’s clear intent muddied by Sheriff Prendergast.
Florida’s Resign-to-Run statute clearly states that a person who is a subordinate officer, deputy sheriff, or police officer must resign effective upon qualifying as a candidate for office, only if the candidate works for the incumbent and the incumbent is seeking re-election.
If this isn’t clear enough, the Florida Division of Elections Resign-to-Run reference guide further clarifies, “So, if a deputy sheriff wishes to run for a non-sheriff office…he or she would not have to resign.”
Nonetheless, this apparently was not clear enough for Sheriff Mike Prendergast relative to Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Cregg Dalton’s candidacy for Citrus County Property Appraiser.
Prendergast consulted the attorney of the non-profit Florida Sheriff’s Association (FSA) to determine if Dalton had to submit his resignation. Why he didn’t consult Supervisor of Elections Susan Gill, a highly respected 23-year incumbent charged with assuring candidates for district and county offices meet all qualifications, is puzzling, to say the least.
Accepting the FSA attorney’s ill-advice that Dalton had to submit his resignation as Gospel, Prendergast “recommended” to Dalton that he submit his resignation. Dalton, however, withdrew it the next day after confirming with Gill that the law didn’t apply to his candidacy.
Although Gill apprised Prendergast of this fact, he still stubbornly insisted that Dalton’s resignation was required. With Prendergast placing greater trust in the FSA attorney, Gill requested and received confirmation from the Florida Division of Elections that the law did not apply to Dalton, which she forwarded to Prendergast.
Still refusing to admit he was mistaken, Prendergast forwarded Gill’s confirmation to the FSA attorney, grasping for straws to be proven right. Instead, the attorney accepted the obvious and so advised Prendergast. Only then did Prendergast relent on his adamant insistence that Dalton’s resignation was required.
A Chronicle news story about Dalton’s unnecessary tribulations triggered a Chronicle guest column by Prendergast. Instead of using this opportunity to accept his mistaken reading of the law and moving on, Prendergast dug in his heels with an accusatory defense of the indefensible that only confirmed the essential validity of the news story.
Ignoring the law’s intent and the FSA attorney’s mea culpa, Prendergast attempted to deflect attention from his mistake by calling the news story a “fabrication” that was “written with malice” and “a deceiving headline.”
When touting his personal, professional and legal standards in the guest column, he noted, “I hold myself higher than most in all three.” Additionally, he officiously asserted that officers of the state should follow his personal example of resigning before filing for public office, even when it’s not required by the Resign-to-Run law.
As Citrus County’s chief law enforcement officer, an attitude of “I’m right, you’re wrong, end of discussion” neither serves Sheriff Prendergast nor the citizens of our county very well.