By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Since taking office 16 months ago, Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony has promoted and/or given tidy raises to five BSO employees who moonlight for Blue Spear Solutions, the company founded by Tony and now run by his wife.
For example, BSO payroll records obtained by Florida Bulldog show that Blue Spear instructor Heath Clark’s BSO annual salary jumped nearly $50,000 thanks to the sheriff’s largesse.
Clark, a captain in BSO’s Fire Rescue Department, got his first salary bump under Tony – a $4,600 merit raise – a month after Tony took over as sheriff in January 2019. But a much bigger increase arrived on Jan. 18, 2020 when Tony promoted Clark to Chief of Fire Rescue’s training division – skipping over the rank of Battalion Chief.
Clark’s annual BSO salary went from $96,871 to $146,445. His current hourly pay rate is $70.41.
Blue Spear’s website identifies Clark, a 14-year veteran, and the other BSO employees as holding various positions at the company. But Sheriff Tony’s director of government affairs, Robin Rorapaugh, told Florida Bulldog that none of the five has performed paid work for Blue Spear since Tony became sheriff.
The sheriff would not comment.
Blue Spear, incorporated by Gregory and Holly Tony in October 2015, offers private and public-sector customers “state of the art training and awareness related to preventative strategies and response for Active Shooter/Mass Casualty incidents.”
‘Public perception of BSO’
BSO allows off-duty employment. But the sheriff’s policy manual states that such work must not “cause the appearance of impropriety” or “cause, or appear to cause, a conflict of interest.” The sheriff or his designee can deny off-duty employment if it interferes with the “public perception of BSO.”
The raises and promotions handed out to Clark and the other BSO employees affiliated with the sheriff’s wife were not arm’s length transactions, and as a result there is an inference of impropriety. Further, while Tony stepped down as Blue Spear’s president shortly after becoming sheriff, the company continues to display his photo and credentials on its website, and lists him as part of “our team.”
Florida’s Commission on Ethics long has cautioned that a public official’s business relationship with underlings can pose ethical problems.
“It is possible that where a public employee has an ongoing business relationship with a subordinate, that private business relationship and the employee’s interests in keeping that relationship harmonious, productive and profitable would impede the employee’s duty of impartially evaluating the subordinate’s job performance and would lead to a frequently recurring conflict between those interests,” the commission first observed in a May 1982 opinion.
Blue Spear is a private entity and as such its financial records, including payroll, are not public. And Holly Tony did not respond to a request for comment made via BSO’s Robin Rorapaugh. Various public documents, however, raise questions about Blue Spear’s viability, including its ability to pay workers.
For example, financial disclosure forms filed by Sheriff Tony reveal that Blue Spear paid him little or no money when he ran the company as president and CEO in 2018. Tony also reported being deeply in debt as of June 12, 2019, with a negative net worth of minus $73,194.
Blue Spear’s work
Likewise, there is little public evidence that Blue Spear has made much money.
In 2018, Blue Spear touted on Facebook its sale of bleeding control kits and training to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and four nearby schools. Blue Spear also has conducted training for workers at the Coral Springs pharmaceutical company United Medco, as well as training done as part of a Safer Schools Initiative in Transylvania County, N.C. in August 2018. [United Medco is one of Tony’s biggest political supporters and made a $20,000 contribution last June to the Broward First PAC that is supporting Tony in this year’s election.]
“Over 300 school staff members trained and over 500 bleeding control kits will be installed inside every classroom,” the company said in one Facebook post about its work in North Carolina. Another Blue Spear post pointed to endorsements by Transylvania’s school superintendent and three teachers. “Do the work and let others speak for you,” the post said.
In addition to BSO Fire Rescue Division Chief Clark, Blue Spear’s website includes the photographs and credentials of four other BSO employees it counts among its instructors.
Blue Spear manager and lead instructor Joel Campbell was a Fire Rescue Driver Engineer in Cooper City at the start of this year. On Jan. 21, Tony promoted him to Fire Rescue lieutenant in Hallandale Beach. Campbell’s salary increased by $6,500 to $93,000. Campbell, hired in 2005, is today assigned to Lauderdale Lakes.
BSO law enforcement Lt. Ana Murillo-Quigley, also a lead instructor at Blue Spear, was hired in January 2007 and is today the executive officer at Port Everglades. Under Tony, her base pay has risen from $103,000 to $117,000 – including a $3,800 cost-of-living adjustment last October.
Brian Powell is listed on Blue Spear’s website as both a manager and lead instructor. On Feb. 29, 2020, Sheriff Tony promoted Powell from Captain Firefighter to Battalion Chief. His salary rose from $100,000 to nearly $108,000 a year.
Blue Spear adjunct instructor Brian Vengoechea has been a Fire Rescue lieutenant since April 2017. BSO records state that since Tony became sheriff, Vengoechea’s base pay rose approximately $6,000, attributable to two cost-of-living adjustments in 2019.
Scott / May 19, 2020 8:16 am
How much can the residents of Broward County take from this fraud of a Sheriff. Time for him to be removed.
Conroy walton / May 19, 2020 11:57 am
You have to pass a test to get promoted Sheriff can’t just put into positions. Entire agency received cost of living adjustments.
Janine Hurt / May 19, 2020 12:30 pm
Dear Governor DeSantis,
As a resident of Broward County and a family of first responders including BSO please remove the temporary sheriff.
He betrayed you once, he betrays us daily.
Lets get all of Florida back to respect and professionalism.
R / May 19, 2020 12:51 pm
This article is trash… every raise and promotion mentioned is part of a contract.. literally non of this is quid pro quo… whats your point here? Fake news.
Broward County Resident / May 19, 2020 3:11 pm
Everyone who got a raise took a promotional test, passed it on their own merit, and was promoted. The Sheriff also has a right to place anyone in a position of leadership who has the proper credentials and experience deemed necessary for the job. Everything was earned, nothing was given for free. The 5 employees mentioned in this article were among dozens of employees who took promotional exams and passed them. And salary raises without promotions were granted based on a contract that was in the works under the previous Sheriff Scott Israel before he was removed.
Breeze / May 19, 2020 7:12 pm
Working hand and foot with the white union leader, don’t like to take orders from the black sheriff, we know what this is all about, black people know!!!!
Tim Wright / May 20, 2020 1:10 am
To all you idiots people every body in power are crooks so what. All you people who watch police murder blacks and say nothing.All you supervisors that favor one employee over another. All you people who are moving in the sistrunk area because your people are raising the houses prices so only a certain race can move in
And you call it law as you go along.And all you people who refused to admit that your America I s really Africa. And it’s in all other nations history books
But not America. Millions of crooks theives and liars.
Tim Wright / May 20, 2020 1:15 am
And America means crooks and liars. And those who say if I don’t like it get out. News flash. Africa can break up into 100 pieces. It’s still Africa. Indian lie on that
Bob / May 20, 2020 2:03 am
Not ALL positions require a promotional test. For example, in the Department of Detention, deputies must test to get promoted to Sgt. and LT. Positions above that are at the administration’s discretion. For example, there was a Deputy who got promoted directly to Captain, skipping both the Sgt and Lt positions without any testing!
John McMahon / May 20, 2020 3:54 am
Hi breeze! The white union leader supported Greg Toney when he lied to the white governor to get his new job that he was never arrested, used drugs, killed anybody or lied on his FDLE application. Many white deputies and the white union leader now support Alvin Pollock for sheriff , only after Toney admitted all of the above criminal fraud to the governor. Last time I checked breeze, Alvin Pollock is African American! I’m pretty sure he is cause we worked together for 35 years for Nick Navarro and race never came up. So I guess breeze that makes you sound like a racist fool doesn’t it?
Remove Toney / May 20, 2020 10:50 am
This isn’t really news worthy. Taking LSD & killing people then lying on applications is the real news.
Mark Robbins / May 20, 2020 2:04 pm
This is a pathetic hit job. Why nothing about the Scott Israel bribes to black ministers? And the $98,000 he gave to Al Pollock as a raise.
The article is confusing to follow… and doesn’t tell us if he gave raises to MANY people besides employees of that company.
Glenn / May 20, 2020 11:35 pm
When I actually read articles like this it makes me want to get out and vote for the guy. I mean these people are trying reeeeallly hard to smear him and I just feel bad at how hard they’re trying. My guess is this website must be owned by opposition..lol. Talk positive about your candidate and I’m more inclined to listen. Voting for this guy now because of this article. Thanks!
Rosemarie Borracci / May 21, 2020 3:04 pm
What politicians will go through to smear other candidates, this is disgusting and low.
Pompano Citizen / May 23, 2020 10:01 am
If you can’t tell what he’s done for everybody else in the department, don’t tell nothing at all. It doesn’t matter who’s in any position/office, they all do things that’s gonna upset others. Why is it ALWAYS around election time that dirt comes up. The ones finding the dirt is dirty themselves 😯😯
Broward Voter / May 24, 2020 9:04 pm
So? Did he give raises to people not working there? Was there some other indication of cronyism? If this is it, I am not worried about him. I think I’ll go donate to his campaign.
John McMahon / May 27, 2020 12:46 am
Glenn , did you ever wonder WHY all police and sheriffs officers cannot have any felony criminal history that is covered up like Greg Toney , did to get hired? Glenn, do you Even understand what the term under oath means, as in listing all arrests , including all juvenile arrests expunged or not on your FDLE sworn notarized police application? The main reason is because criminals like GREG TONEY could lie about self defense, throw away the gun and change his last name , to cover up the crime of homicide , for which he WAS arrested, against the 18 year old friend shot in the head at the curb. IF it was self defense why cover it up for 27 years and play word games when discovered? He lied to the FDLE and Coral Springs Police. SO Is it OK if the cop handling a crime against your family member , God forbid , had
killed somebody and kept committing criminal fraud on applications by pretending it never happened , making ALL of his court testimony totally inadmissible in any court of law?
jeff / September 17, 2020 2:41 pm
its true in a perfect world promotions are based on merit
i worked there 26 years and can tell you ,most of the promotions
are fixed or fraudulent, color of skin, golf buddies, non threatening white male,
girlfriend of a judge,plus numerous sub catagories. glad to end my career being
not one of those types.
Brian Roscher / May 13, 2022 1:41 pm
It looks like Heath Clark was promoted to Fire Chief and that probably explains why his salary went up. He is the fire chief of a county with almost 2,000,000 people in it. It is the 2nd largest county in Florida surpassed only in size by Miami-Dade county. If you look at the salaries of the fire chiefs in Florida, he is probably getting underpaid when you take into account the size of the county.