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Memo angers many

Tony Holt Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 04:46 PM

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Catie Blue left a few faces red when she lambasted county commissioners for their perceived lack of leadership.

Some felt the assistant finance director to the sheriff spoke out of turn — and wasn't in any position to grumble.

She makes almost $73,000 per year and her benefits package is worth another $13,000, according to the county.

Blue said she thinks county employees have too much — and their bosses should stand up more to the union and consider more options before they seriously contemplate a tax increase.

A couple of detectives took umbrage — and took to their Facebook pages.

"Are we surprised that (she) is willing to forego the benefits? She is making over $20,000 (compared to) most employees at the Sheriff's Office!" wrote Ed Ciccone. "Let's try reducing her pay to what deputies make and then try taking all those benefits away — AMAZING."

Blue sent a memo to county commissioners earlier this week criticizing them for not showing enough leadership, not providing enough information, not being transparent enough and not exploring more budget-alternative solutions.

"What disturbs me greatly this year is the lack of discussion of personnel costs, which is a huge portion of the budget," Blue wrote. "My perception thus far is that our leadership team is recommending a reduction in service prior to a reduction in personnel benefits. This is inherently wrong."

Sheriff Al Nienhuis, for his part, went into damage-control mode.

"The sheriff called this morning and left a very eloquent voicemail," said Commissioner Dave Russell. "He wanted me to know it wasn't his sentiments in the letter. I respect that."

Blue also stated in her memo that any talk about a tax increase would be premature.

"While I am not against a justified tax increase as part of the solution, it needs to be the last resort, not the first," she wrote.

Blue has been on vacation since July 4 and declined to comment Friday. She stated in her memo it was her right to express her opinion and she was doing so as a constituent, but she also mentioned her opinion was "professional and personal."

Detective Bryan Faulkingham cut her no slack on Facebook.

"I wonder how often she works shifts away from her family or how often she puts her life on the line to protect the citizens of this county," he wrote. "I bet she sleeps well at night while others keep her safe."

Patricia Miller, a patrol secretary, was even less kind.

"Sure, just because you have the right to do something doesn't mean it's the right thing to do," she wrote. "I'm sorry, she should know better. Of course, I would have expected nothing less from her."

Several more deputies, dispatchers, wives of deputies and other employees also were critical of Blue and posted several online messages — and they ranged from disparaging to vulgar.

Nienhuis said some concerns about Blue's memo have been expressed to him. "I hope that the county administration, the commissioners and county employees realize that was not the opinion of the sheriff or the sheriff's office," he said.

"I respect her right to her opinion and her right to express that opinion, but it also concerns me some of the collateral damage this has caused." (352) 544-5283

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