Manatee jail farm supervisor retires amid investigation

jdela@bradenton.comDecember 28, 2012 

MANATEE -- Eight months after the Manatee County Sheriff's Office's jail supervisor lost his job for taking jail farm property for personal use, his replacement has been found to have done the same thing, investigators say.

Maj. Anthony Ackles, appointed in April to take over supervision of the jail farm, retired after learning of an internal investigation, a sheriff's spokesman said Thursday.

An investigation concluded that Ackles, a 27-year veteran with the sheriff's office, ordered one of his captains to load five pieces of starter firewood in his truck to take home, a report says.

Ackles was put in charge of the farm after an eight-month investigation found that his predecessor, Maj. James Higginbotham, and a sergeant took home horse feed, hay and eggs from the farm and let jail employees

do the same.

Higginbotham left his position last year, and his retirement took effect Jan. 2, 2012. The sergeant, Frank Parks, resigned in March, after learning the sheriff's office wanted to suspend and demote him.

An internal investigation found this month that Nov. 16, Ackles ordered that some firewood be cut and be put in his personal vehicle. The captain, Doug Baird, reported the request to the professional standards office and was interviewed several days later.

Ackles, the report noted, returned the wood to the farm five days later.

The report concluded that, "As minor as this violation appears, it still constitutes a clear violation of policy." Investigators ended the report with a "sustained" finding of conduct unbecoming a deputy.

Manatee Sheriff W. Brad Steube said Ackles was never formally interviewed in the course of the internal investigation because he retired, but said, "he (Ackles) apologized to me."

Steube said Ackles was doing a good job. "By all accounts, he set the course back to where we wanted to be. And then he does this. You ask, 'What were you thinking?' Of course, he wasn't thinking."

Steube says he will take his time to find a replacement for Ackles. "I'm not in a rush," he said. "I'm going to take my time and get beyond the new year." He said his options include moving a current major into the position, promoting a captain or bringing in someone from outside.

Efforts to reach Ackles for comment were unsuccessful. He started his career with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office in November 1985 and was promoted to major in June 2011.

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