Deputy’s wife skewers Citrus Sheriff Mike Prendergast over treatment of injured husband

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'It took me a minute to process what the official was saying.'

The Citrus County community is reacting with outrage after the wife of a critically injured deputy penned a letter harshly critical of Sheriff Mike Prendergast.

Michelle Lahera said Prendergast and an unnamed high-ranking official coldly cut her husband’s employment status months after Andy Lahera was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic following the May 2023 Lecanto High School graduation ceremony.

Citizens were stunned to learn Prendergast intended to terminate Lahera, a beloved school resource officer whose accident sparked an outpouring of community support that raised tens of thousands of dollars for the family.

“This really shocked me,” one comment on the Just Wright Citrus blog reads. “The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) abandoning Andy. So much for the brotherhood of law enforcement.”

In a statement, Prendergast called Lahera a “dear friend.”

Lahera, a 15-year CCSO veteran, was working the Lecanto High School commencement exercises when a supervisor ordered that a side gate be opened to allow more traffic to leave the Roger Weaver Educational Complex.

A woman’s car struck Lahera as he directed traffic. He has been fighting for his life ever since; the driver was not charged.

Mrs. Lahera said Sheriff’s administrators told her that if Andy couldn’t return to work within six months of the accident, his employment would be terminated.

“It took me a minute to process what the official was saying and I’m sure they could see that by the look on my face,” she wrote.

“So then I say, ‘Are you telling me Andy will no longer be employed?’ The response was yes. It was literally as if someone took a knife and shoved it right through my heart. My husband who has dedicated 15 loyal years to the Sheriff’s Office, who was literally still fighting for his life, due to no fault of his own, but simply because he was doing his job, and they tell me they will be ‘separating’ from him?”

She said Prendergast and an unnamed top official stopped their interest in Andy once realizing he wasn’t returning to work.

“Back then, the official and the Sheriff would drive to Tampa together (to see Andy) every time they came down, every so often, spend about an hour or so, and then leave,” she wrote. “But once they realized that Andy wasn’t going to just come out of it like we were hoping, that is they started becoming more distant with us.”

The issue is insurance as he continues receiving long-term acute therapy. A county official said it costs the Sheriff’s Office about $8,000 a year for Lahera’s health insurance. 

In September 2023, four months after Andy’s accident, the Sheriff’s Office notified Mrs. Lahera that it would push the termination date to August. Several Facebook comments noted that timing coincides with the Primary, where two-term Prendergast faces three Republican challengers.

Mrs. Lahera hasn’t spoken with Prendergast since January. “He has cut all ties from us,” she wrote.

Prendergast’s statement contradicted her account.

“The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office has remained unwaveringly committed to assisting Mrs. Lahera during this very difficult journey. It remains our steadfast desire that Andy makes a full and complete recovery so that our colleague and a dear friend can return to his community and continue to serve as a School Resource Deputy.”

Mrs. Lahera asked the community to keep her husband in its thoughts.

“I hope you now understand why I continuously ask that Andy not be forgotten, because it seems as though he already has been by the very people who caused this,” she wrote.

“It’s as if he never existed.”

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.


  • Playing with ?

    May 23, 2024 at 8:03 pm

    Sad. When people are about money it a blast just keep your hands off my stash

  • Laura Mallom

    May 24, 2024 at 7:54 am

    So very sad to hear that the county office did this to a to a officer of 15 years and hurt while on duty..I hope there is a way she can fight this or sue them. It is a shame
    Why was this young lady not arrested?

    • Kay

      May 24, 2024 at 7:58 pm

      She was found to be not at fault, she wasn’t speeding or texting or using her phone, she just never saw him on a dark roadway at an exit that was never supposed to be opened. The young lady was devastated that she hurt Deputy Lehara, and she has been harassed, threatened, forced to leave her job and is no longer living in Citrus County

    • John Parker

      May 24, 2024 at 9:17 pm

      When I was a peace officer, if I had to take a medical retirement due to something that happened on the job, I’d have received a lifetime pension of 100% of my pay. Don’t peace officers in Florida get the same benefit?

      • L.B.

        May 26, 2024 at 10:30 am

        Depending on what retirement option he chose, she’ll get a lump sum, monthly pension payments, or nothing at all. (Assuming they had state retirement – some have their own with different options).

  • Emily

    May 24, 2024 at 2:26 pm

    Shouldn’t this be covered under workman’s comp? Even the salary replacement?

  • Brenda Becker

    May 24, 2024 at 2:49 pm

    Outrageous and totally missed that this Sheriff Deputy of 15 years abandoned by our Sheriff !! His wives needs a good Attorney!!

    • Karol

      May 24, 2024 at 4:31 pm

      Yes but you only get 60%. He is still down in a Tampa hospital. Who covers that bill for her gas to and from. Do you wonder if 60% of your salary will pay your bills, along with everything else?

      • Resident

        May 25, 2024 at 10:45 am

        That’s what supplemental disability ins is for. If you don’t take it out, you get this and this is a rule for all of us, not just this family. They are no exception.

  • Scott

    May 24, 2024 at 3:00 pm

    Seems this country all bout money got gas tax for roads worst roads ever seen so we’re is that money really going?

    • Resident

      May 25, 2024 at 10:44 am

      Commissioners pockets from developers who do not live here.

    • Boog

      May 25, 2024 at 11:56 am

      Worst roads ever lmfao…..get out much?

  • David Simmons

    May 24, 2024 at 4:02 pm

    This type action is what is ruining America, and gives Citrus County a reprehensible “black eye”. Why was a citation not issued to the driver- gross negligence for a good attorney. We deserve BETTER in this county.. enough of the politics that have harmed the public service sector in this county…schools to selected county representation! Don’t look to the White House and their mess, choices like this are literally ruining our nation from the inside outward!

    • Jason

      May 25, 2024 at 6:15 am

      What does the White house have to do with a red county in a red state with a GOP Sheriff? I live in Citrus…

    • Christine Starrett

      May 25, 2024 at 7:04 pm

      In all actually why should she be charged? An accident is an accident and called as such for a reason. She didn’t do it on purpose, it was a dark night, I bet he was wearing a dark uniform. The real culprit here is the person who told them to open or remove a barrier that is noted shouldn’t have been opened anyways. It was an accident and she is already getting punishment enough. What will jail time accomplish in this case.

      • Mrs BossZ

        May 29, 2024 at 2:38 pm

        Deputy Lahera was wearing his bright orange vest as he directed traffic

  • M. P.

    May 24, 2024 at 4:50 pm

    Sounds like it’s not only time for a new sheriff but time to obtain a lawyer as well…..
    Wishing you all the best Mrs. Lahera as well as live and prayers for Andy

  • Stephanie A Marsh

    May 24, 2024 at 5:37 pm

    My Grandfather was the Chief of Police in Swansea, SC. He not only taught us to respect the law but respect the people who work beside you as well. It is a sad day when loyalty is lost because of money. No one should have to put their lives on the line for unrespectful so call “Leaders” like that. Best thing to do is vote those individuals out and get folks that will have your back. Shame on them.

  • Big brain

    May 24, 2024 at 6:15 pm

    Some of you have no experience with workers compensation and it shows.

    • MrsBossZ

      May 29, 2024 at 2:40 pm

      Thank you, totally agree. WC is a joke in Florida

  • Alister

    May 24, 2024 at 6:57 pm

    The wife has been outrageous and very trashy in her spread of misinformation. He could have been insured against a disabling injury like many in high risk occupations but apparently wasn’t. Where is the personal responsibility? Workers Comp only pays 60% of wages for everyone hurt which is allowed by state law. Hurt on the job, they are responsible for his wages and rehab, not the employer. What makes this woman special? She needs to get over herself.

    • Michelle Lahera

      May 24, 2024 at 10:43 pm

      I am the wife. He does have insurance. How is my account of what has transpired trashy? Talk to me, keyboard warrior. Come on down to Citrus and let’s meet to discuss. I look forward to meeting you. And please know that I will continue to post until policy is changed. Please continue to pray for my husband.

      • B.H.

        May 25, 2024 at 12:40 pm

        I’m definitely going to vote to get him out of office. The person who hit him should have been arrested just like anyone else who hits a pedestrian. There are many accidents on dark roads where the driver is held responsible. Why not her? Is she related to someone of power in the community? She should have been held accountable, period. I’m so sorry to hear how your family is being treated.

      • Lascenda and Dustin cormier

        May 25, 2024 at 3:36 pm

        How is he doing

        • Lascenda and Dustin cormier

          May 25, 2024 at 4:04 pm

          My husband name is Dustin cormier he got you and Andy’s back if you need us we are here for you people need to stand by the oath that they plage to be sworn in as a deputy if they can’t stand behind the oath as they should negotiate be a sheriff they need to be a security officer at a bank Andy is a good man a very good deputy I am praying for you and Andy and your family working at a sheriff office is not called code workers they are family they need to treat a fallen officer like family I am so so sorry for what happen

      • MrsBossZ

        May 29, 2024 at 2:50 pm

        Michelle, I’m totally with you on this sister. As a Leo Wife myself, I agree that the policies on this must change, even higher up legislation must change. This is not a situation where a person is trying to take advantage or get a free handout. Continued prayers for Andy, you and your family.

    • Lynn

      May 25, 2024 at 7:06 am

      Agreed. While I don’t want to downplay her feeling, to me this is convenient and calculated seeing as it’s election year. The deputy isn’t coming back to work, let’s be honest here, so why is it the responsibility of the sheriff’s office to keep him? No one has forgot him but lives can’t stop either. I haven’t seen an update in ages which the article explains why. This was planned and she was probably paid. Does she think her job would keep her if something happened, no. While it’s a devastating situation, people also need to look at the bigger picture.

      • Citrus resident

        May 25, 2024 at 10:42 am

        The first logical comment I’ve read. It’s an obvious smear campaign banking on the fact that most of this county are uneducated and jump on whatever band wagon is rolling. Long term disability is something he had the option to take out and apparently did not. Workman’s comp have limits of time and terms. It’s an adjustment moving from one time frame to another that no one is understanding.

  • Jason

    May 25, 2024 at 6:22 am

    I’m so sorry Michelle. Praying for your family.

    Yeah this person makes no sense. All the insurance and benefits shoud be coming from the Sheriff office. Including disability and something like other police – medical retirement. Shame.

    I will be voting for a new Sheriff.

  • Alister

    May 25, 2024 at 6:25 am

    My friend was dying under a semi truck and I was frantic searching for information and you took ithe information as an opportunity to crusade. Hey everyone’s looking over here, let me redirect the focus on me because it’s all about me and I’m more important. We didn’t need to see your hate. We needed to see good news about our friend.

    If you have disability insurance then what’s the point of all this? How long is the sheriff supposed to keep you under his wing? Another year? Two? Five? Forever? Injured workers across the nation are taken care of by WC and disability. Somehow you think you are more special than everyone else in the country and are rallying politically instead of fighting in court. Why aren’t you in court? Oh because you don’t have a case.

  • Gk

    May 25, 2024 at 7:13 am

    So sorry this has happened, Pendergast is out this year. He just lost my vote. I did not know this was happening to Andy. Everyone is telling you to sue, but how can the county not be responsible for this?

  • Peter Lawer

    May 25, 2024 at 7:43 am

    It’s sickening that everything today is about money. There should be insurance when the man works for the Sheriff’s Office. Maybe there should be an investigation into the Sheriff. If I were the people living in his jurisdiction, I wouldn’t vote him back in. How concerned is he to the people when in fact he isn’t even concerned about one of his own. I hate to say this but what if he were hit by a car the same way. I guess that would be different. Same old crap with politics these days. People, you all need to wake up and stop this crap.

    • Resident

      May 25, 2024 at 10:38 am

      There is long term disability insurance he had the option to take out and apparently did not. Educate yourself on insurance and workman’s comp.

  • Wendy

    May 25, 2024 at 8:54 am

    Typical of the Sheriff’s Office, abandon one of their own when it suits them.

  • Tracy

    May 25, 2024 at 10:17 am

    To Michelle Lahera-We also fly blue, from another state, and I am so sorry for your husband and the pain you must be feeling right now. I will pray for him in every aspect to heal. I do think an attorney is desperately needed in your husband’s case. This will help both you and your husband, in order to keep his benefits and income in place for his long term care for him and you. Again sending Prayers.

  • Citrus resident

    May 25, 2024 at 10:36 am

    This is an obvious attempt to interfere with an election and try to get money. E
    I feel for the officer but in reality he has the choice like all of us to take out extra long term disability and workman’s comp have rules on payments and timelines. The county is awarded a budget for x amount of officers. We are down by one and that position can’t be replaced with another hard working individual until the time has expired that the hurt office was gracefully given extra time and pay for. It’s a hard situation for that family but this isn’t the fault of the sheriff. He is bound by budget, policy, and the duty to run his office. The smear campaign is strong in the timing of this. And the same people smearing it all over social media daily are getting blocked by the ones who are educated and know this isn’t the sole responsibility of the sheriff. The comments from citrus county residents are an embarrassment on social media for the continued bashing and comments showing their lack of understanding on how disability ins and workman’s comp work.

  • Alister

    May 25, 2024 at 11:11 am

    If she had a lawsuit she would be in court, not the court of public opinion. Obviously she has no case.

    People are dead in a ditch and loved ones are online looking for any information possible and she’s over here going, none of that is as important as me, look at me! And by doing so she has lost support for her cause.

    • K Wright

      June 1, 2024 at 11:42 am

      You’re the one saying look at you. You’re a true piece of crap. I hope you pr a family member don’t ever get injured or killed. You have no idea what you’re talking about and can’t even use your name here, that’s called being a p*ssy and keyboard warrior. Why not grow some balls and state your name. Go back to your basement dwelling , troll.
      I truly believe in karma and I hope that some karma comes your way, while you continue to hide behind your laptop, or phone screen and bash a poor woman and her critically injured husband. Pathetic piece of crap!

  • Citrus Res over a decade

    May 28, 2024 at 4:51 pm

    I live in Citrus County. Citrus Sheriff Mike Prendergast is a terrible leader and should not be re-elected, but not for this.
    This is unfortunate, but something all employees have potential for, especially high risk first responders.
    People want to hang the sheriff for not providing services they aren’t willing to pay for. Give the deputy accident/disability insurance and keep him employed- ok- who is paying?? When the budget is presented and planned, no one- not a single person- comes forward and says increase my taxes and fund XYZ. Everyone has a better way to spend tax payer monies.
    Shut up or pay up.
    Pray for a community member injured on the job and speak through your vote! Let’s get rid of Prendergast!

Comments are closed.


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