NEW PORT RICHEY - Frustrated with a federal Department of Labor investigation that says his agency owes more than $45,000 to a group of employees, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco aired his concerns Tuesday.
The Department of Labor's stance, according to the sheriff's office, is that deputies who commute from another county into Pasco County should be paid for the time it takes to drive their patrol car from a drop-off location to the deputy's designated patrol area.
Deputies who live outside a 10-mile range of the county are required to leave their patrol vehicles at a secure, designated drop-off location, which include fire stations, toll plazas or at another deputy's home, among other options.
The Labor Department estimated that as many as 67 employees fell under that category and the group is owed a combined $45,223.96 in earnings.
Deputies who live in the county and take their cars home would not be paid for that same, in-county travel time.
"We're concerned as a sheriff's office because there's no merit," Nocco said. "This is just somebody coming through your door, telling your family you have to pay $46,000 and then (you asking), 'Federal government, why do we have to pay $46,000?'
'Because we say so.'"
Nocco and the sheriff's office's legal council, Lindsay A. Moore, say they have not been given details of the investigation. They said they are making assumptions.
Department of Labor officials declined comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
Deputies who live outside the county can take their vehicles home if they live within 10 miles of the county's border. For the privilege of taking the patrol car to their home, deputies who live less than three miles outside of Pasco pay the county a flat rate of $25.43 monthly in mileage; those who are between 3 and 6 miles away from the border pay $50.85 per month and those who are between 6 and 10 miles outside the county pay $84.75 each month.
These deputies are not part of the Department of Labor's investigation.
Deputies, even those who live in the county, don't have to participate in the program and can leave their patrol vehicle at a drop-off location.
The investigation began in October 2012 with the Department of Labor telling sheriff's office officials that the investigation was part of a "random audit" of the agency. Information concerning the number of deputies who lived outside the county was requested.
The sheriff's office later discovered the investigation was initiated by a deputy's complaint. Nocco said they don't know who filed the complaint.
Nocco said a Department of Labor official said they did not read the Pasco County Sheriff's Office patrol car take-home policy.
"That heightens even more the fact that they just don't care," Nocco said. "They are just going to send an edict down that we have to pay $46,000."