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EVIDENCE ROOM SPAWNS INQUIRY

St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
DATELINE: BROOKSVILLE

Hernando County, FL

The Sheriff's Office says the probe is unrelated to a recent resignation.

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office has opened a criminal investigation related to the property and evidence room at its own department. The investigation comes on the heels of the resignation of John Manning, the Sheriff's Office property and evidence supervisor. Manning submitted a one-sentence letter to Sheriff Richard Nugent on Jan. 29 announcing his intention to resign immediately.  Sgt. Donna Black, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, said the investigation had nothing to do with Manning. "We always do a thorough investigation," Black said Tuesday, "so I wouldn't put a time limit on it." Sheriff Richard Nugent confirmed the investigation centered on employees within the department but said he wouldn't comment again because the probe was ongoing.

"All I can tell you is we're in process of completing the investigation," Nugent said. Black said the Hernando Sheriff's Office will be the only law enforcement agency handling the investigation. "We handle the criminal investigations just as we handle our own internal affairs investigations," Black said. "And in the past we have arrested members of our agency for criminal violations such as domestic violence."

However, it is not unusual for law enforcement agencies to bring in outside investigators, typically the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, to avoid any perception of impartiality.

The FDLE, for example, is continuing an investigation of allegations of missing guns, cash and drugs from the Brooksville Police Department's evidence room during the tenure of former police Chief Ed Tincher.

There was no indication on Tuesday that the problems with the Brooksville Police evidence room were connected to the new investigation into the Sheriff's Office evidence room.

As of Tuesday, prosecutors said they hadn't been told of the investigation. State Attorney Brad King said that wasn't necessarily unusual. "It would depend on the circumstances," King said. "Obviously, if they find nothing, no discrepancy or no problems, that's not necessarily something they'd report to me."

Joel Anderson can be reached at or (352) 754-6120.

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