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Friday, Nov 21, 2014
Politics

Hillsborough transportation board chief loses reserve deputy rank

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TAMPA — The head of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has lost his commission as a reserve sheriff’s deputy and with it his moonlighting job as a security guard.

Chief Deputy Jose Docobo relieved Cesar Padilla of the reserve deputy commission in a letter dated last Friday. Padilla was ordered to turn in his deputy equipment and credentials and cease any law enforcement activity.

Docobo wrote the letter days after it was revealed Padilla used his reserve deputy status to moonlight as a security guard at the Tampa Machinery Auction in Thonotosassa. On many of the days Padilla worked at the auction house, he was either listed as being on the job at the transportation commission or called in sick.

Docobo said Padilla had failed to meet the requirements for continued commission as a reserve 1 deputy because he had not volunteered a minimum of 20 hours a month for the sheriff’s office. Reserve 1 deputies are fully certified officers who go through the same level of training as full-time deputies or police officers.

“When some of these issues came up, I had his records reviewed and found he had failed to meet those 20 hours a month requirement for at least the last 12 months,” Docobo said Monday.

Padilla also was stripped of his reserve deputy 3 commission, which Docobo said was given when Padilla was an inspector at the agency. All the Public Transportation Commission inspectors are reserve 3 deputies, which allows them to do criminal background and arrest warrant checks on people who want to drive vehicles for hire, such as cabs, limousines or tow trucks.

Docobo said the reserve 3 commission, like reserve 1, requires full certification training. Reserve 2 deputies, on the other hand, undergo a lower level of training and must always be supervised by certified deputies.

“The reserve 3 is related to their position as line inspectors,” Docobo said of the PTC inspectors. “(Padilla) is not in that position, so he has no need for that commission as a reserve deputy.”

The loss of deputy status will reduce Padilla’s retirement benefits, Docobo said. Under the Florida Retirement System, which covers county employees, law enforcement officers and firefighters qualify as high-risk and accrue retirement at 3 percent of their pay a year. Other state and county employees accrue benefits at 1.6 percent a year.

Padilla is out of town this week and could not be reached for comment. He makes $107,078 as executive director of the transportation commission. Last year he earned an additional $6,006 providing security at the auction, and has made $4,396 so far this year.

The loss of his reserve commissions effectively ends Padilla’s moonlighting gig and could further damage his standing with the commission. PTC Chairman Victor Crist, a county commissioner, was angry when he found out about Padilla’s second job and said he wants the full commission to discuss it in executive session – out of the public eye – at the Sept. 17 regular meeting.

“If it looks like a criminal investigation or potential lawsuits, generally those kinds of discussions are held in executive session,” Crist said. “But that’s not my call; that’s the county attorney’s.”

Crist asked County Attorney Chip Fletcher last week to investigate whether Padilla broke laws or county regulations by working another job while on the clock for the county. Fletcher said that investigation is still ongoing.

Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick, a member of the Public Transportation Commission, said the action taken against Padilla by the sheriff’s office further damages the director’s credibility. Reddick noted that Padilla’s contract is coming up for renewal.

“I’m pretty sure with all the incidents that have taken place and the latest one, there are going to be some hard questions asked about the future the director’s position,” Reddick said.

The transportation agency made headlines in 2011 when its chairman, County Commissioner Kevin White, was convicted on federal corruption charges for taking bribes from a wrecker company that wanted to get on a towing rotation used by the sheriff’s office.

It was White who pushed to elevate Padilla, then PTC chief inspector, to director of the agency. White won board approval to make Padilla interim director and to raise his salary from $40,000 to $106,360. Padilla later was given the job full time, though he was still working on his college diploma, a requirement for the directorship.

msalinero@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-8303

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