Citrus County Commissioners, Sheriff Mike Prendergast spar over grant

ccso car
'I have not gone to social media … but I can willingly do that.'

Relations between Citrus County Commissioners and Sheriff Mike Prendergast, deteriorating since a flubbed federal grant last year, continue to slide.

Commissioners turned aside Prendergast’s request that the county sign a Department of Justice (DOJ) COPS grant to hire up to 46 officers.

Commissioners also set a June 11 public hearing to establish a special municipal services taxing district, or MSTU, to fund law enforcement.

Prendergast denounced the move.

“The mere suggestion to create an MSTU for law enforcement is a deliberate, misguided, undisguised, or more aptly labeled inaction, designed to do one thing, and that’s to defund police.”

Prendergast and Commissioners feud over budget issues annually, but it was last year’s COPS grant snafu that drove the wedge in further.

The board in 2023, at Prendergast’s request, applied for a COPS grant for 43 deputies. The grant is for five years and covers costs for the first three years.

When the DOJ approved the full ask, Commissioners balked at the multimillion-dollar cost, and the grant fizzled.

Relations continued to sour last month when Prendergast skipped a county budget roundtable to attend a law enforcement ceremony in Tallahassee. 

And they were no less tense on Tuesday when Prendergast asked commissioners to sign off on another COPS grant for 46 deputies.

Commissioners said they were unwilling to make that commitment.

“We’re giving you money. How you spend the money is completely up to you,” Commissioner Jeff Kinnard said. “I’m not going to get in the weeds and say we need 22 officers, or we need 55 officers.”

Commissioner Diana Finegan said she wants more deputies as well, but she questioned the costs.

“You don’t have to sell me on 46 deputies,” she said. “I want to support you 110% … and I want to protect the taxpayers.”

Commissioner Rebecca Bays said the county has numerous other gaps in service as well.

“We have a whole laundry list of these things we’re behind on,” she said. “We can’t afford the COPS grant.”

Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach in particular, ran afoul of Prendergast. When Schlabach said she voted to give the Sheriff his entire budget request, Prendergast repeatedly interrupted her to say she hadn’t.

“We gave you every penny you asked for. You know it’s true,” she said. “I don’t know where it’s gone off the rails, but there’s a problem here.”

Prendergast in April started a Facebook page, funded through a PAC he controls with his longtime Campaign Manager, aimed at criticizing Commissioners for what Prendergast considers a lack of spending for law enforcement.

He threatened Tuesday to ratchet up the rhetoric.

“I have not gone to social media … but I can willingly do that,” he said.

Schlabach said Prendergast has only himself to blame.

“No matter what I say, it’s not going to be right for you,” she said. “It’s all or nothing with you. Can you work with us?”

Mike Wright

Mike Wright is a former reporter with the Citrus County Chronicle, where he had covered county government and politics since 1987. Mike's skills as an investigative reporter earned him first-place awards in investigative writing. Mike also helped the Chronicle win the Frances Devore Award for Public Service in 2002.


  • rick whitaker

    May 14, 2024 at 6:56 pm

    do floridians gripe and bicker over everything governmental? yes.

  • Tt

    May 14, 2024 at 10:02 pm

    Daystar thinks they are all that! When jn realty, they screw people over. Yes sheryl Ann! You and Joe need replacements!!!

  • AJR

    May 15, 2024 at 12:57 pm

    Prendergast, acting like a baby stomping his feet and threatening to go to social media. If I’m not mistaken he is what they call a double dipper. Prendergast if I’m not mistaken and I appoligize if I’m wrong, gets paid by taxpayers as he is retired military getting a pension and now taxpayers are paying his salary. Let him pay for the extra men he wants. This is not right.

    • Robin Williams

      May 25, 2024 at 7:38 am

      I have to disagree with this. He also has a boss he is not at the top do you realize the crap these guys go through I agree with the sheriff these men and women in blue put their lives on the line every day some go home to their family some children go the rest of their lives without a parent some only have one parent to start with therefore end up an orphan I do agree with you on the whole government comment but if you dig deep down you’ll find some pretty good guy and gals out there who put their lives … Mr. Mike P. also has someone to answer to who makes the last and final decisions on certain things , as far as his income he’s earned that he’s done his duties and furthermore his income is nobody’s business but his and his alone not to be an issue for what he’s doing now. How would you like your income splattered all over social media? Nonissue period. Put yourself in his shoes for one day, or have yourself call 911 from the opposite side of the county and it’s a matter of life or death givin the manor of how fast they can get to your house. But oops they can’t get their quick enough because they’re on the other side of the county and they’re down on man power. How would you feel then? Would you stand by your statement here? There are a lot of people in this county I mean this county covers many cities and without manpower, maybe I’m not saying it happens because I have no clue this is hypothetical or rhetorical not statistical ! But if these things could happen then people would be all for this grant, correct? As far as them arguing about yes I did, no you didn’t. That’s easy to determine, right. There has to be proof. So one of them is a liar! Why would Sheriff Pendergast lie of such a thing knowing there’s proof and to go online as you say “ act like a baby stomp his feet and threaten to go on social media I myself would want my voice heard to if nobody is listening where my voice needs to be heard. This man is finally making this county clean and putting away the bad guys. I guess everyone was much happier when the druggies killers and alike were still on the streets walking free or not being brought in. I myself feel much safer out there since he’s been in his position and I have much respect for CCSO!!! i guess I was brought up with different morals than you. Older or younger I was taught to have respect for my elders and men/woman in uniform which also includes men in blue

  • rick whitaker

    May 15, 2024 at 1:26 pm

    bad sherriff, how could that be? in florida, a crooked official, no way, no way.

    • Robin Williams

      May 25, 2024 at 7:41 am

      You’re so disrespectful

      • rick whitaker

        May 26, 2024 at 12:26 am

        ROBIN WILLIAMS the truth is not disrespectful. my truth is that florida is crooked as hell from top to bottom, what’s your truth?

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704