MARTIN COUNTY — Sheriff William Snyder said his decision to restructure the Sheriff's Office has to do with putting in people "who will share my vision and passion for law enforcement," and not politics.
Since officially becoming sheriff on Tuesday, Snyder has thinned the ranks by doing away with the positions of major and undersheriff for the law enforcement division and reassigned four civilians and 15 law enforcement officers. He kept the rank of major for the director of the Martin County Jail.
Those changes have raised eyebrows.
Snyder estimates trimming the command staff from 10 people to seven will save taxpayers $600,000 in salaries and benefits in the Sheriff's Office $54.9 million budget.
"This is not the end of my part to reduce bureaucracy," said Snyder, who spent 20 years with Miami-Dade Police Department and 13 years as a major at the office he now leads. "More changes will be coming at a later date."
Former Undersheriff Marvin Mann, Maj. Robert Pryor and former captains Michael McKinley, John Wardle and Lloyd Jones have retired. Former Maj. Ed Kirkpatrick was retained but his rank was lowered to captain. Snyder's competitor in the Republican primary, former Maj. John Pietruszewski, has been reassigned as a sergeant gun range instructor.
Snyder said his changes were not politically motivated. He said he has been working out of the Sheriff's Office since the November general election, putting in place his command team.
"Unlike many incoming sheriffs, I worked here for 13 years. I supervised these people," Snyder said Friday afternoon. "Any portrayal that I came in on the first day and drastically made all these changes is incorrect."
The former state representative said he never asked anyone to retire and only two people — Mann and Wardle — left when he assumed office.
However, it is not unusual for the incoming sheriff to change the management structure of his office.
The most recent sheriff to do so was Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar, who a month after his 2009 swearing-in reduced the number of captains from seven to three, with some receiving a 15 percent pay cut.
Some of Snyder's estimated $600,000 savings from the restructuring dipped with the creation of a $82,999 salary for the civilian post of business and government affairs director, given to Stephen Leighton, the former district director for U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney. Also hired was Snyder's former legislative aide, Kimberly Brown, as a $75,000-a-year secretary. He said it is a decrease of $11,000 from the job held by a former secretary in that position.
"Sheriff Snyder is trying to put the best people in position," said Christine Christofek, the office's new public information officer, a former spokeswoman for the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County and a former television reporter, who will earn $70,476."There is no compromise to public safety. The mission of the Sheriff's Office still remains the same. We're protecting the public. We have a different leader."
Snyder's said Leighton's political skill is an asset to the department because he will help secure funding for projects. Also, the sheriff's office will cut $15,000 earmarked for lobbying efforts from the budget because of Leighton's hire, he said.
A review of Snyder's campaign contributions show Christofek and her husband combined donated about $350, some of it for in-kind services such as event planning. Leighton and his family donated $4,000.
Another campaign supporter, former Lt. Michael Ewing, was promoted to captain overseeing the directed operations division. He donated $440.70 in cash and in-kind services such as T-shirts.
Last year, former Sheriff Robert Crowder twice reprimanded Ewing for violating department policy when he used Sheriff's Office resources to view personal information of a couple who asked to be removed from the email list of the Snyder's sheriff's campaign. Ewing told investigators he received a personal email from the couple and couldn't remember them. Ewing said he used the database to get a picture of the couple to help remember them.
Both Ewing and Leighton, a former sheriff's detective, received the Sheriff's Office lifesaving award in 2004 when they helped rescue more than a dozen people after a town house collapsed in Hobe Sound that year.
Martin County Sheriff's Office command staff
Ed Kirkpatrick, director of Administrative Services Division, reclassified to a captain from a major.
Capt. John Cummings, director of Criminal Investigations Division replaces Capt. Michael McKinley, who retired.
Capt. Michael Ewing, director of Directed Operations Division replaces Capt. John Wardle, who retired.
Capt. Wes Starling, director of West County Uniformed
Anthony Renganeschi, director of professional standards, replaces Lt. Dennis Fritchie, who will be reassigned.
Civilian Glenn Theobald will oversee the legal affairs and replaces Terence Nolan, who will be reassigned.
The rank of lieutenant colonel, also known as the position of undersheriff, no longer exists. Former Undersheriff Marvin Mann retired.
Former Maj. John Pietruszewski, who supervised emergency management, has been reassigned as a sergeant gun range instructor.
Former Maj. Robert Pryor, who supervised law enforcement operations, retired. His position no longer exists.
Areas where no change in rank occurred
Maj. Casey Szparaga, director of Corrections
Capt. Jenell Atlas, director of Administrative Support Division.
Capt. Brian McCandless, director of Court Services Division
Capt. Jeffrey Townsend, director of East County Uniformed Operations Division
New position created
Stephen Leighton, business and government affairs director.