LEE COUNTY, Fla.- A union says that Lee County Sheriff's deputies are so poorly paid, that 40 of them are receiving food stamp benefits. The International Union of Police Associations, or IUPA, says 120 deputies would qualify for food stamps.
The union is starting a website, copsonstamps.com, and it is running at least two billboards in Lee. The billboards claim that deputies are on welfare. The website has more specific details on deputy pay, and the issues the union has with Sheriff Mike Scott.
"The 400 deputies in the union have not gotten a raise in six years. Some have been told, they will not get a raise anytime soon. That is not right, when the sheriff does reward and promote certain people. The public should be concerned because you want a functional law enforcement agency to ensure public safety," says Rich Roberts of the IUPA office in Sarasota.
The union is trying to build pressue on county commissioners. They meet in three weeks to try to resolve a bargaining impasse between the deputies union and the sheriff's office.
WINK News contacted Sheriff Mike Scott, who says he does not know if any deputies are really on food stamps.
Scott adds: "This is typical union propaganda. The public is tired of this crap. I say if you took a poll of the public, the circles I travel in, would say, they are tired of these union bullies and these union tactics. I would add, if these jobs are so bad, why did these deputies join the agency and why do they stay?"
Commissioner Frank Mann told WINK News: "I would be surprised if deputies were on food stamps, but you'd have to ask the sheriff or the deputies. I just know that we have a $30 million budget deficit, going into this fall. We cannot go around throwing out raises, when we are upside-down in our budget. The fact is, county employees have not gotten raises for five years, and some state workers have not gotten raises for six or seven years."