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INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — An afternoon mishap at an entrance gate led to a heated exchange between Indian River County Administrator Joe Baird and a sheriff's deputy Saturday, according to reports and video released Tuesday by the Sheriff's Office.
According to surveillance video, Baird was following local developer Joe Paladin , who owns a boat docked at the community marina, into the 53rd Street gated entrance at 2:25 p.m. Saturday. The padded arm of the gate dropped and struck the hood of Baird's Toyota Camry as he drove through, according to the traffic report.
The damaged gate arm rose back up after Baird backed up his car, but fell apart shortly after Baird left the scene, the Sheriff's Office said. A security guard contacted the Sheriff's Office and notified them the driver of the Camry was at the Grand Harbor marina.
Following an investigation Saturday, Deputy Karrie Spooner cited Baird for leaving the scene of an accident with property damage. Spooner, joined by Deputy Kathy Gibson, approached Baird at the marina about the gate damage.
"I didn't understand why I was being charged with leaving the scene of an accident since I didn't see the damage before I left," Baird said Tuesday in an interview about the incident. "I didn't see it fall. I don't think I did anything wrong."
According to reports filed by Spooner and Gibson, Baird was agitated about the ticket and argued about whether the damage was his fault.
"I told him it was a mandatory court (appearance)," Spooner said in her report. "He made the comment, 'Good luck.' "
Gibson's report said Baird slurred some of his words and smelled of liquor. But the deputies did not charge Baird with any other traffic offenses.
"(He) kept rambling on and said to me he didn't like my attitude," Spooner wrote in her report.
According to the reports, Baird called Spooner "stupid," told her he hated her and that she "didn't have a real (expletive) job." Both reports said Baird later apologized.
Baird said he reviewed the reports from Spooner and Gibson but would not comment on them.
Indian River County Commissioner Gary Wheeler said Tuesday he looked at the video and the deputy reports. He disagreed with Spooner's decision to give the infraction.
"I have a lot of respect for Deputy Spooner, but this was an improper charge," he said. "It's not leaving the scene of an accident if you didn't know there was an accident."
Wheeler, a former sheriff who has known Spooner for many years, said he wasn't surprised she and Baird butted heads.
"They're both firm and very opinionated," Wheeler said. "I can understand there would be a conflict between them. They have similar personalities."
Grand Harbor staff said they fixed the gate arm that afternoon. The Sheriff's Office said the damages were about $300. Baird said he contacted Grand Harbor to pay for the damages.
The Grand Harbor gate situation isn't Baird's only traffic citation in recent years. He was charged with driving under the influence in May 2009 by the Vero Beach Police Department. However, a jury acquitted him that summer.
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