PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A federal civil lawsuit claims many leaders in the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office are “intoxicated with power.”
The lawsuit was first filed in April by just three plaintiffs – one current and two former employees.
Now, 20 former employees of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office have joined the lawsuit.
In the 427-page suit, they state that Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco and department leaders abused their power, harassed and retaliated against employees. The plaintiffs say they were either fired or pushed out for speaking out against the alleged abuses and wrongdoing.
A Pasco County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson released the following statement to 8 On Your Side:
“We are aware of this lawsuit. We have successfully defended previous lawsuits filed by Mr. Squitieri and we look forward to addressing these allegations in the proper forum. It is important to note that these previous lawsuits were also filed by Attorney John McGuire. We would hope that media outlets would allow the legal process to play out. Our response in court will answer all questions and, once the facts come out in court, we are confident these allegations will be proven false.”
8 On Your Side spoke with one of the former employees who has joined the lawsuit.
“They ruined my name, so I couldn’t go get a job someplace else,” said former Pasco Corporal Cliff Baltzer. “It doesn’t surprise me that they would do it to other people.”
Baltzer spent 18 years at the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. For many years, he worked in the K9 unit.
His story starts with a love for his K9 partner, Tundra. Baltzer says his new boss started to target him and Tundra. The dog would sometimes be startled by loud noises.
“One of the SWAT members opened the door and it slammed against the wall and when it did that the dog kind of flinched,” said Baltzer.
Baltzer’s new boss said the dog was performing poorly.
According to Baltzer, an investigation was sparked after he disagreed and also exposed other problems within the K9 unit.
That’s when a supervisor allegedly threatened to kill Tundra.
“If I gave him a hard time with this investigation, that he would put my dog down, and he could have that blamed on me in social media,” said Baltzer.
Baltzer believed his supervisor might follow through with the alleged threat. That’s when he started asking about buying the dog.
“In order to buy the dog, you essentially had to resign?” said investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.
“Yes,” Baltzer confirmed.
The lawsuit contains many other additional claims. A training supervisor states he was fired for blowing the whistle on gender discrimination within the department.
The lawsuit also names a former FBI agent who joined the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. According to that employee, a Pasco resident posted an old mugshot of a deputy. Supervisors allegedly instructed him to “look up and find any information” on the woman and her family in order to target them. When he refused, he said he was fired.
8 On Your Side will continue to follow this developing story.