The race for Clay County Sheriff hasalways been entertaining, impassioned and fiery. This year, one candidate’s pursuit of the most powerful law enforcement position in the county has a bit more sizzle than he likely hoped.
Craig Aldrich, former undersheriff to Sheriff Rick Beseler, touts himself as a conservative, Christian and family man. But some law enforcement sources within the Clay County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) say information has been released which may add a little dichotomy to Aldrich’s bio.
Several weeks ago, a large anonymous mail drop with a video disk in it out blanketed Clay County. The letter stated: “As you can see from the attached video of an unmarked C.C.S.O. sheriff’s vehicle assigned to Major/Captain David Senters, the close associate and subordinate deputy to Colonel Craig Aldrich has driven the vehicle to a totally “NUDE” strip club in Tampa, Florida. This is a clear violation of law and county regulations.”
The video showed an unmarked CCSO vehicle, along with a close-up of the license plate, parked in front of Mons Venus strip club in Tampa. The Chevy Impala’s license plate number was W778BI. The narration on the video also stated the car had a “S.T.O.P. sticker given to Clay County Sheriff’s Office Personnel” on the rear bumper.
Mons Venus is a strip club that bills itself online as offering “full nude hot action.” According to three reliable sources, the car was assigned to Aldrich’s next-in-command, then Captain Senters. (Senters was promoted to undersheriff on July 13.) Materials accompanying the video stated it was filmed in 2010.
Those same sources told Folio Weekly Magazine that Aldrich attended a training seminar, along with six other officers from the CCSO, on March 11 and 12, 2010. Information obtained by FWM from the CCSO included the roster of attendants at a training session held on those dates. The list showed that six members of the sheriff’s office were at the conference: Barry Abramowitz, John Angus, Michael Hardee, James Pimentel, David Senters and James Wilson. Aldrich’s name was conspicuously absent. The CCSO Records Department produced the Certificates of Attendance of four of the attendees, but not Aldrich’s, though all were requested.
FWM was able to independently obtain a Certificate of Attendance for Aldrich to the Legal & Liability Management for Tactical S.W.A.T & Emergency Response Operations that was held in Winter Haven, which is approximately one hour’s drive from Mons Venus strip club. The certificate states Aldrich completed 16 hours of course instruction on March 11 and 12, 2010.
Speaking on a condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, two sources who also attended the conference said that at the training facility the next morning, Senters bragged about the outing and specifically mentioned Aldrich and another officer in his tale as his bar-mates.
Florida law does not specifically prohibit law enforcement officers from frequenting strip clubs, but it does preclude them from using a department vehicle to get to the clubs.
Florida Attorney General Advisory Legal Opinion AGO 74-384 states:
“A sheriff may assign sheriff’s department vehicles to his personnel on a permanent basis for use both on and off duty if it is done pursuant to the rules and regulations that ensure that the program will serve a valid public purpose and that such rules and regulations are, in fact, complied with.”
The officers’ racy field trip may also be in violation of Clay County Board of County Commissioners Personnel Policies Manual Section 17A(D)(8) – Vehicle Use Policy, which states:
“ … [P]ersonal use of a County vehicle shall be restricted to the time the employee is en route to or from work (8-hour and 24-hour vehicles only). Brief stops, as at banks or convenience stores, are permitted. Using the vehicle to go to a business establishment or other location after returning home is not permitted, unless it is for an assigned County function or meetings, or unless the employee has been specifically instructed by the County Manager to have the vehicle in his/her possession for immediate response because of special, unique circumstances. Any visit to a legitimate business site while en route to or from work must be brief and must not subject the vehicle to undue danger, nor may said business establishment be illegal or lend discredit to the County Government or its operations.” [Emphasis added]
Aldrich retired on June 30. He did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
In the June 20 memo announcing his retirement, Aldrich states in the last line: “As you know, we are leading in the polls and I am certainly on the right path to being elected Clay County’s next Sheriff … ”
FWM contacted CCSO Media Specialist Mary Justino about the possibility of an investigation into the allegations. She advised us that Sheriff Beseler would respond. As of press time, he had not done so.
Aldrich is being challenged by James Jett, Darryl Daniels and Harold Rutledge in the Republican primary to become the next sheriff of Clay County. Jett and Daniels did not have any comment about the allegations.
Rutledge provided this statement: “Throughout my law enforcement career, I have held myself to a high ethical standard and will expect that standard in my deputies and employees as the next Sheriff of Clay County. Internal investigations are necessary to maintain the public’s trust and I intend to use this tool as we strive to serve the citizens of Clay County with the highest integrity.”