Besides $8,050 in missing or stolen cash, more than 900 other items unaccounted for include guns, ammo, drugs, electronics, jewelry & automobiles
Headline Surfer photos / The circumstances that led to Ron Pagano's departure as police chief at the end of 2012 have come to light despite City Manager Pam Brangaccio's attempts to keep the circumstances under wraps as long as she could, including a major theft scandal in the NSBPD's evidence room and an agreement that the city finally released Wednesday after weeks of sitting on the 24/7 internet newspaper's request for 'any and all' public documents pertaining to Pagano's retirement and the money trail that followed. Shown above the photos of the two is an excerpt from the contract signed Oct. 31, by Brangaccio and Pagano that calls for him to keep quiet about the arrangement that netted him nearly $80,000 months after his Dec. 31 retirement. In the interim, the public didn't learn about the extent of thefts in the police force under Pagano's watch until the city manager was forced to go public after inside sources told Headline Surfer that senior administrative officials and even elected officials were trying to plug the leaks.
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- While City Manager Pam Brangaccio was fully aware that more than 900 items were missing from the police department's evidence room well before an after-hours press release last month, Headline Surfer has learned she entered into a secret agreement back in October with then-Police Chief Ron Pagano that had him retire at year's end, only to continue to pocket more than $67,000 he didn't even earn.
When told of the arrangement, the first thing that came out of citizen watchdog Bob Tolley's mouth was "hush money!"
Asked to elaborate, Tolley, who has filed a series of complaints with the Florida Commission on Ethics against Brangaccio and Mayor Adam Barringer, on unrelated issues, said, "It's time. That's all. You can quote me on that. Everyone will know what I mean."
Asked to elaborate, citizen watchdog Bob Tolley, who has filed a series of complaints with the Florida Commission on Ethics against Brangaccio and Mayor Adam Barringer, on unrelated issues, said, "It's time. That's all. You can quote me on that. Everyone will know what I mean."
Tolley has said the $125,000-a-year city manager's governance has brought shame to New Smyrna Beach and completely wiped out any hint of transparency. The Pagano contract, reported publicly for the first time by Headline Surfer, is the final straw, Tolley insisted.
"I'll repeat myself," Tolley stressed. "It's time."
Tolley, who was instrumental in getting former Mayor Sally Mackay and that commission to fire Brangaccio's predecessor, John Hagood in early 2009, has said Brangaccio needs to go, too.
But he knows that unless something comes of the ethics complaints or if an outside investigation is launched, the current commission under Barringer has been loyal to her, often content to let her take the lead with the public and the press.
Other than newcomer Kirk Jones asking Brangaccio to explain discrepancies in what he and his colleagues were told as far as missing or stolen money, $1,020, and the far greater $8,050.70 that Headline Surfer was first in reporting, she has refused to answer him at a public meeting earlier this month while the mayor and Commissioners Judy Reiker, Jack Grasty and Jason McGuirk remained silent.
Under terms of an 8-page agreement then-Police Chief Pagano and Brangaccio signed Oct. 31, his retirement was effective Dec. 31, with the caveat of continuing on "paid administrative leave" during the first two months of 2013, for which he was paid $15,948.77, even though he did nothing to earn the money. Worse yet, this was followed by an additional $51,375.50 -- equivalent to 180 days pay from his annual $103,000 salary -- in "severance" which he didn't earn either.
The agreement even states that had it not been for both sides agreeing to this special arrangement, he would not have been eligible for severance since he was retiring.
Tack on top of the collective $67,324.27 Pagano pocketed, but did not work for, plus an additional $11,463.20 in unused accrued time paid out after retirement and Pagano made out like a bandit with a whopping $78,787.47, all while in charge of a police force that couldn't account for $8,050.70 in missing or stolen cash among the more than 900 items unaccounted for from the NSBPD evidence room.
Headline Surfer first learned from an anonymous source within the police force last month that the items unaccounted for besides cash include an array array of firearms, ammunition, narcotics, jewelry, electronics and at least 30 motor vehicles. The extent of the missing items was verified by Lt. Michael Brouillette who served as acting chief until earlier this month when the city hired George Markert of Upstate New York as its new police chief following a high-profile nationwide search.
Brangaccio did nor return calls or e-mail messages for comment today, something she has consistently done since November when Headline Surfer learned through public records requests that she authorized use of a city credit card to pay for a "private" retirement party for ex-Commissioner Jim Hathaway and nearly four dozen guests. The party was held at Mayor Adam Barringer's So Napa Grille wine-bar restaurant with the taxpayers footing the $1,200 bill.
It wasn't until after the 24/7 internet newspaper broke the story on the use of the municipal credit card that reimbursements were made weeks later, leading to citizen watchdog Tolley filing complaints against the city manager and mayor with the Florida Commission on Ethics.
But that pales in contrast to the enormity of the items missing from the police evidence, which Brangaccio knew about before Pagano's official retirement Dec. 31, and continued keeping under wraps well into 2013, even conducting a high-profile nationwide search for a new police chief in the interim.
Though Brangaccio has refused to answer Headline Surfer's questions, Carol Hargy, the city's human services director, confirmed this morning that Pagano was paid his regular bi-weekly $3,987.20 in January and February while "assisting with special projects."
Asked to elaborate or to provide documentation as to what these special projects might have been or or even if they were performed, Hargy conceded she was told nothing and had nothing in the way of public records to back up the claim.
Hargy acknowledged that the city manager had never even discussed anything in the way of actual work being performed by Pagano after his retirement. Hargy then said she would have to defer to the city manager in answering any further questions.
Messages left by Headline Surfer for Mayor Barringer and Commissioners Judy Reiker, Jack Grasty, Jason McGuirk and Kirk Jones went unanswered today. Headline Surfer has had no way of contacting Pagano for comment since his retirement and a series of messages messages left for him through the police department since the beginning of the year have gone unanswered.
Though the 24/7 internet newspaper had asked several weeks ago for written documentation as to Pagano's actual retirement and whether he was retained beyond that, City Clerk Johnny Bledsoe finally fulfilled Headline Surfer's public records request this morning by releasing the eight-pager agreement signed by Pagano and Brangaccio on Oct. 31.
Headline Surfer found a clause in the contract, particularly disturbing, which demonstrates that the city has been anything but transparent with taxpayer money used outside the Sunshine -- hence the secrecy.
The particular verbiage to that end is described as follows under section 13: "Except as provided by law, Pagano agrees not to disclose or publicize the terms or existence of this Agreement to anybody other than Pagano's spouse or attorney, and tax advisor or accountant. Pagano shall not directly or indirectly use or divulge to any third party any of the City's confidential or privileged information or materials disclosed or made available to Pagano by reason of his employment with the City, and not generally known to the public."