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New Manatee sheriff's office policy bans personal use of county property

MANATEE -- A new policy banning employees from using Manatee County Sheriff's Office property for personal use has taken effect.

"It's a done deal," said sheriff's office professional standards chief inspector Ed Judy.

The policy, an amendment to General Order 1013, was implemented after an eight-month sheriff's office investigation revealed that two former high-ranking officials were using the agency's property out of work and allowed other employees to do the same.

The order reads that employees and their friends and family will not borrow sheriff's office property and that it will only be used for "authorized purposes." And if any employee suspects "misuse of agency property," they are to report it to their supervisor or professional standards.

Anyone who violates the order could face between a written reprimand and termination, Judy said.

Drafting of the memo began while the investigating was still taking place. Before its completion, Major Tony Ackles, who heads the jail, told employees to stop taking sheriff's office property.

The investigation's report cited the former employees, former Major James Higginbotham and Sgt. Frank Parks for "conduct unbecoming a deputy," but allegations of "unlawful conduct were not sustained. The state attorney's office declined to prosecute the pair.

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

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