By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Patrick Cannon may be pounding the pavements for a new gig after last year’s
election but, judging from county credit card receipts, he should at least look
nice at job interviews. Bank of America
statements furnished by the Dade County Commission pursuant to the Sentinel’s
open records request show that Cannon racked up $3,643.99 at clothing retailers
in October – after losing the Republican primary in August – and had the bill
sent to Dade.
officials who questioned the credit card charges say Cannon told them the
expenditures were for suits for himself, his investigators and his deputies to
wear when they appeared in court. As of
Monday morning, though, nobody else at the sheriff’s department reported
receiving new suits.
Executive and Commission Chairman Ted Rumley, responding to questions following
release of the records, said he routinely reviews all charges made on the
county credit card, and he admitted that Cannon’s $2,757.98 purchase of Oct. 11
at Men’s Wearhouse, another for $634.74 at J.C. Penney the same day, and a
third at JCPenny.com for $251.27 on Oct. 15 had leapt up at him from the page
last fall when he opened the credit card statement.
“If it had been
at the uniform place over there, where they buy all the police officers’
uniforms, it would probably never even have been questioned,” he said. “We get bills monthly from them, like if a
deputy gets out on a chase or a fight and tears his britches, or sometimes at
the end of the year they’ll buy like 20 pairs of pants, just to keep them
looking neat – but I don’t know that anything’s ever been bought at Men’s
said Rumley, no receipts had been turned in for the item, which is routine for
official purchases. So shortly after he
received the bill, he called Cannon in for a meeting with him and District 3
Commissioner Robert Goff.
that Cannon said the clothes were for his staff, though he hadn’t specified
which employees. “He didn’t say it was
for Billy Bob or Jim,” said Goff. “He
did say they were bought for the department, and he did say it was for in case
they had to go to court.”
meeting, Goff said, he and Rumley had asked some of the sheriff’s department
employees if they had received their new suits yet. “Then it came out they didn’t know what we
were talking about,” he said.
Rumley said he
and Goff had given the thing time. “I
thought, well maybe he’s going to give it to them for Christmas,” said Rumley.
But Santa had
not delivered suit-sized presents to any of the detectives or deputies by the
end of the year, and the new sheriff, Ray Cross, confirmed Monday that the
suits were still missing in action.
Goff, whether the clothes were for Cannon or for his staff: “Where does it say we’re responsible for
buying dress suits for anybody?” And
besides, he said, the autumn before a new administration took over in January
was a terrible time to invest in new clothes for anyone, because who knew what
staff changes the new sheriff might make?
he’d called the retailers for details about Cannon’s charges but had been
unable to obtain any. Though the credit
card belongs to the county, each individual cardholder is considered a separate
purchaser and entitled to privacy, he was told.
specifications might have told Rumley whether the suits were meant to lend
sartorial splendor to the lanky lines of the altitudinous Cannon himself, the
more compact contours of his second-in-command, Danny Ellis, or the daintier
dimensions of diminutive Detective Christy Smith.
Such was not to
be. But does, in fact, the county
usually spring for dress duds for sheriff’s department employees of any shape,
size or description? “Not since I’ve
been here,” answered Commissioner Rumley.
But, he said,
eyebrow-raising as the ex-sheriff’s purchases may be, they are not illegal;
once a duly-elected constitutional officer’s budget is set, he can spend it
pretty much as he pleases.
$12,000 in their budget for uniforms,” said Rumley. “It don’t matter whether it’s suits,
Fruit-of-the-Looms, whatever. That’s his
call. I had a right to question him but
as far as challenging him on it, you know, I just shook my head.”
In any case,
said Rumley, the charges were enough to spark the interest of the county’s
auditors. “We’re doing as close to a
full 150-percent audit as you can do, and we’re going back four years,” he
Ray Cross did not comment on the suit issue beyond assuring the Sentinel he had
checked with his staffers and none had received new clothes. He said rumors of a Georgia Bureau of
Investigation were unfounded as far as he knew, though: “If there was anything wrong in the previous
administration we will pursue it.”
Both Cross and
Rumley said the audit process is a slow one.
But Rumley hinted that the suit controversy was part of a larger picture
and more revelations may emerge in the fullness of time.
did not return phone calls requesting his input for this article.