Pinellas sheriff candidates debate at Tiger Bay listen09/25/08 Seán Kinane
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No punches were pulled today in a debate between three candidates for Pinellas County Sheriff at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club.
Former deputy sheriff Randall Jones felt so strongly that he wanted a new boss that he ran for Sheriff. Because of state election laws, that means he had to resign from his job. Jones, a Democrat, did not hide his criticisms of how Sheriff Jim Coats, a Republican, has led. Jones brought up what he called “reckless statements” Coats made earlier this year when facing budget cuts.
Coats, who was elected sheriff in 2004, said his statements were not irresponsible.
A write-in candidate in the race, Greg Pound, was arrested earlier this month when he refused to leave a convention-watching party hosted by U.S. Rep. Bill Young. Pound can often be seen holding a sign for his website, Free our kids.com, in front of Pinellas County courthouses and the Sheriff’s Office protesting the termination of his parental rights. If elected, Pound pledged to get rid of corruption in the county.
Coats said he is the only one of the three candidates with a college degree and the only one who has overseen a multimillion-dollar budget. The sheriff’s budget is $264.5 million, Coats said, down $20 million from last year. He was criticized by a member of the audience for having several public relations spokespersons in the Sheriff’s Office. Coats said there was more than enough work for the public relations staff to handle.
His Democratic challenger, Randall Jones, criticized those expenditures and said that if elected he would reduce the sheriff’s salary.
In perhaps the most contentious moment of the forum, Coats and Jones were asked whether they would hire their opponent after the election. Both said they would not. They were also asked if they lose the election, would they accept a position under their current opponent. Both said they would not.
Pound criticized Coats for “double-dipping” by collecting both a salary and a large retirement pension.
In his closing statement, Jones criticized Coates for two other incidents and called into question Coats’ campaign slogan of “experience and integrity.”
Photo by: Seán Kinane/WMNF
Learn more about the candidates for Pinellas County Sheriff by visiting their websites.