Our sheriff is once again in a p.r. pickle.
You may recall just two months ago Sheriff Mike Prendergast’s office assisted the feds in arresting the “Sedition Panda” in Lecanto.
Not only that, but the sheriff took a righteous stand on the agency’s Facebook page, saying those who participated in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot were not Patriots but criminals instead.
His supporters did not agree.
I’m guessing they’re sheriff’s supporters because he’s all pro-Donald Trump and that’s his political base in Citrus County.
Those folks were none too happy that their sheriff — and to this crowd, Prendergast is THEIR sheriff — not only participated in the arrest of someone they see as only a pawn in a fake riot, he made it worse by taking the wrong side.
Then he did it again.
Tuesday night, federal officers arrested Daniel Ball of Homosassa and charged him in connection with the Capitol siege. Prendergast’s office participated in the arrest and, as he did in February, the sheriff crowed about it.
“We will continue to partner with both our state and federal partners to arrest those involved in the breach of our Capitol,” Prendergast’s statement Wednesday on the sheriff’s Facebook page reads. “These individuals overstepped their first amendment rights when they invoked a mass riot and ensuing mob that placed the lives of others in danger. More so, they violated the law when they assaulted and impeded those who took an oath to protect and serve. Actions like that of Ball go against the very foundation of our nation.”
First off, I totally agree. And attaboy doing his job.
I’m also in the minority. I didn’t read all 400-plus comments, but here’s a sampling:
All this for assisting another agency with an arrest? Well, no. Of course, it’s all about politics.
This has no bearing on how he’s doing his job keeping us safe and all that, but from a political standpoint, he’s stepping in it left and right. This behavior is usually associated with either political novices or the extremely arrogant.
First off, know there is no more polarizing political figure than sheriff. It’s that way in most counties and it’s been that way in this county all my 35 years. Didn’t matter whether Democrat — Charlie Dean, Jeff Dawsy — or Republican Prendergast, the sheriff is the most watched politician in town.
They’ve all battled the press. I have to chuckle at the Chronicle’s latest tug-of-war with Prendergast about access to reports and the sheriff’s knack for telling the public only what he wants it to know. Prendergast isn’t the first sheriff to do that though he takes it to a new level for sure.
The public should be outraged and demand more transparency in reporting criminal activity and arrests. I doubt that’ll happen and even if it did, Prendergast would easily rise above. He, like his predecessors, could promise simple fixes that evaporate in a few months.
Withholding information from the public, while abhorrent, won’t hurt him at the ballot box.
Voters, though, don’t like being toyed with.
Prendergast has angered the Trump wing of the county Republican party, and that’s a sizable chunk.
At the same time, pro-Trump posts on his personal Facebook page have Democrats seething. I wrote about the “I’d rather be an American than a Democrat” hat and I wasn’t the only one who noticed.
The Chronicle has printed letters and Sound Off comments from Democrats who wonder if that’s a threat on the sheriff’s part. While it’s silly to think the sheriff would bust the taillights of Democrats during a traffic stop, his posts are unnecessary insults against fellow citizens.
So now Prendergast has angered both his political base and Democrats as well.
And he can’t say, “Well, I’m doing my job and I’ll suffer the political consequences.” No, only part of this is doing his job. The other part is antagonizing people on purpose.
It’s a strange approach. If there’s a goal here, we’d like to see it.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.