Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told a small group of disabled residents last week that he’s building a program that would authorize qualified citizens to issue tickets to drivers who illegally park in designated handicapped spaces.
“I personally think it’s pretty appalling that people park in these spaces who don’t need them,” Gualtieri said to a group of eight people, some with limited vision and mobility, at a recent American with Disabilities Act Advisory Committee meeting at Hale Senior Activity Center in Dunedin.
Residents had complained a month earlier that the law wasn’t being enforced. Committee chairman John Espey invited Gualtieri to address the group's concerns at its Feb. 24 meeting.
The interim Pinellas County sheriff, wearing a white dress shirt and tie, promised that within the next 30 days, he would be ready to roll out a structured training program for citizen patrol groups that puts handicapped parking enforcement in their hands.
“I’m a big believer in getting things done,” Gualtieri said. “We don’t need to meet and talk, meet and talk.”
Gualtieri said he would likely model the initiative after existing citizen patrol programs and that local municipalities would get a percentage of the revenue generated from fines.
Greg Rice, planning and development director for the city, was in attendance at the meeting. He mentioned he would probably send members of the citizen patrol out in pairs to minimize safety concerns.
Gualtieri took office in November after Sheriff Jim Coats resigned to care for his ailing wife. Gualtieri has 20 years of service with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and is up for election Nov. 6.
He will face former longtime sheriff Everett Rice, Randy Heine, Tim Ingold and Scott Swope in the election.
A nonpartisan sheriff’s candidate forum is scheduled at the VFW Dunedin-Palm Harbor Post 2550 on Douglas Avenue from 7-9 p.m. April 18. Residents are asked to email questions for the candidates in advance to email@example.com.