Manatee sheriff's lieutenant suspended after drunken incident during Republican convention

MANATEE — A lieutenant with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office was suspended two weeks without pay after he became aggressive with a subordinate while intoxicated during the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Lt. Joseph Perry, who joined the office in 1994, was among a group of employees having drinks on Aug. 27 while off-duty at their Comfort Inn Sun City hotel.

The group calmed down about 10:15 p.m. after someone staying upstairs complained about the noise.

Later, a sheriff’s deputy saw Perry standing “toe-to-toe” with an unknown individual near the hotel’s parking lot and intervened, according to the internal investigation.

The deputy place a hand on Perry’s chest and said, “Joe, it’s not worth it,” documents state. Perry pushed the deputy against a vehicle and yelled, “Don’t ever put your hands on me.”

Other sheriff’s office employees separated the two. Perry made an effort to immediately apologize, but was advised by a sergeant to let situation diffuse.

Perry apologized the next day. The deputy did not wish to file a complaint because the incident was a “misunderstanding” because Perry “was unsure of who had walked up behind him and intervened.”

Those at the scene said the deputy was not drunk but Perry was intoxicated. The two men worked together later that week without problems, the report states.

The internal investigation launched Aug. 31 when the Office of Professional Standards heard about the incident.

“He is a command level employee who put himself in a questionable situation while partaking in the consumption of alcoholic beverages with subordinates,” the investigation concludes.

Although Perry was off-duty, he was representing the sheriff’s office as part of the 88-member team sent from the agency to assist in law enforcement efforts at the RNC from Aug. 27 to 30.

Allegations of conduct unbecoming a deputy were sustained against Perry, who has already served his 86-hour suspension without pay, according to Dave Bristow, sheriff’s office spokesman.

“I’m disappointed in his actions but to his credit he came in and was willing to receive the proposed disciplinary action,” said Sheriff Brad Steube. “It has been imposed and we move on from here.”