Former Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti says the payouts he authorized to the mostly high-ranking pals who left the sheriff's office with him earlier this month were justified by policy and past precedent.
He may be correct, but that doesn't make the $4.8 million in payouts to about 50 deputies right.
Let's take the most egregious case, that of Col. Timothy Gillette, who received a whopping $340,000 check on the way out the door, most of it in accrued sick and vacation leave pay. Understand this is above and beyond his pension for life, which is mostly likely in the six figures (he was making $150,000 a year).
Gillette had served at the agency for more than 30 years and had somehow accrued about 422 sick days and 120 vacation days, according to BSO figures. Deputies get about 12 sick days a year and if they don't use them, they roll over to the next year. Gillette has obviously been a very healthy fellow; 422 sick days is equivalent to 35 years worth of sick time never taken.
Deputies can accumulate unlimited sick time on the rationale that a serious illness could befall them at any time and they deserve the days they've saved up. That makes sense, but the normal policy, under union agreements, is that when a deputy leaves the agency, he or she receives about 25 percent of the value of those sick days.
In this case Lamberti authorized 100 percent payouts for Gillette and the rest of the upper brass who were ousted as a result of the regime change at BSO, a decision that deprived taxpayers of about $3 million and made several deputies very happy.
Among them, in no particular order:
Lt. Col. Louis Cavallo: $133,940
Dir. Jim Leljedal $120,482
Capt. Stanley Hodgman $100,043
Capt. James Fondo $142,956
Chief Scott Gooding $136,332
Capt. Andrew Koerick $116,228
Col. Timothy Gillette $340,653
Lt. Col. Richard Reilly $143,005
Maj. Larry Rogers $175,471
Maj. John Nesteruk $137,675
Chief John Bukata $121,193
Asst. Dir. Debra Lesniak $112,695
Maj. Randy Smith $105,387
Capt. Milton Wiener $148,135
Chief Peter Sudler $122,450
Col. James Wimberly $173,956
These are just the payouts that went into the six figures (Lamberti himself bagged $52,286) and they're above and beyond whatever pensions these officers will receive.
Wimberly was the former director of the jail who stood at the side of Lamberti when he cut the pay of rank-and-file deputies over budget concerns.
Now these payouts have left a hole in the budget for new Sheriff Scott Israel, who railed against the payouts not just because they seemed excessive, but because they represent special treatment for the top brass and left him a sizable hole in his new budget.
It's perfectly legal, such payouts are done at the sheriff's discretion, and Lamberti pointed out that past sheriffs, including Ken Jenne, have given similar payouts. Let's hope Israel will put an end to the special treatment that can only leave taxpayers feeling a little sick.