A recent report by Fox 4 in Fort Myers casts doubt as to whether Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno is qualified to be a deputy in his own police department – let alone the sheriff. In fact Fox 4 questions whether Marceno is qualified to be a law enforcement officer at all in the State of Florida.
How could that even be possible?
First, a little bit of background.
The above-mentioned allegations against Marceno that Fox4 reported on aren’t new. They were forwarded to me 15-16 months ago at another publication with the obvious hopes that I would publish and expose this issue.
It was outside of the scope of what the publication was aiming to accomplish so I took a pass. I’m legitimately surprised that it took over a year for this story to hit an established media outlet in Lee County.
The crux of the Fox 4 report on July 10 is that based on their investigation, Sheriff Marceno may not qualified to be a law enforcement officer in the State of Florida because he didn’t have enough time on the job in another state to qualify bypassing a state-approved police academy through a process called Equivalency of Training (EOT).
What is EOT? In a nutshell: Under Florida law, an out-of-state police officer or federal agent can become credentialed to be a law enforcement officer in this state provided they’ve worked for 1 year full-time in a state that has training standards that are reasonably similar to Florida’s.
If you meet those requirements you can fill out a form which gives you one year to take a course and a test, then you’re good to go.
But according to Fox4’s reporting, while Marceno worked as a law enforcement officer from May 1998 through September 1999 for the Suffolk County Department of Parks in New York, he did not meet the requirement of having worked there full time for a year. Based on Marceno’s time cards, some weeks he got full-time hours, some weeks he got part-time hours.
Looking at the time cards, it appears as though the Suffolk County police force he was working for utilized an 8-hour shift with 30 minutes unpaid for lunch. So if you take 37.5 hours per week, multiply it by 50 weeks (2 weeks vacation) you get 1875 hours for someone who worked full-time for a year without missing a shift. Based on what I could tell, Marceno put in 1470.5 hours, but I caution that a few of the lines on the reports were difficult to read I might not be exactly right on. Nevertheless, I feel completely confident saying Marceno was short on the 1875 hours that would be needed to be equivalent to 1 year full-time.
At that point, Marceno moved to Southwest Florida and applied for EOT.
While working for the Naples Police, Marceno took the EOT test twice and failed both times. For reasons not known to us and not reported by Fox 4, Marceno went back to Suffolk County and once again worked in an LEO capacity for the same police department as before.
Is it possible Marceno come to the realization that he needed more hours in order to qualify for EOT in Florida, and that’s why he went back to New York?
Anyway, just like his first stint in Suffolk County, some weeks he was full-time and some weeks he was part time. This time around Marceno put in an additional 1273.5 hours.
So in total, Marceno put 2744 hours of LEO time in New York spread out over two separate stints. That’s nearly 1000 hours more than a full-time officer would put in during the course of a year.
Marceno returned to Florida again, this time passing our state’s EOT test.
According to Marceno’s opponents, there are three major issues.
First, some of Marceno’s opponents are saying that since Marceno did not work “one year, full time” as an out-of-state LEO then he does not even qualify to be a law enforcement officer at all in Florida.
The exact requirement language as of today states “You worked at least one year, full-time as a sworn officer in the discipline you are seeking exemption.”
The problem with that is “one year, full-time” isn’t narrowly defined by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Does it mean that you literally must work one calendar year exactly with no vacation, no days off, no sick days? Does it mean that you can work 6 months full time in California, take 3 months off, then work the other 6 months in Oklahoma?
By the time Marceno joined the LCSO he had far exceeded the equivalent working hours of one year full time on the job in another state – and he had passed the EOT. So it seems dubious to suggest that Marceno isn’t qualifed to be an LEO in Florida, as he meets the key EOT requirements.
The second issue is criminal in nature, with some having suggested that since Marceno didn’t have the requisite hours in his first stint in Florida that he was technicality impersonating a police officer, which is a crime.
Marceno wasn’t impersonating a police officer. He was hired in the capacity of a police officer with the Naples PD working toward his EOT.
Even if he had not garnered the required hours at that time and there is a Florida statute which was violated, it was 20 years ago and the statute of limitations would be long over. So anyone trying to invoke some form of criminality to this is wasting their time.
The third issue, and this is one where Marceno should be concerned, is political. Marceno is running for a political office and he’s (so far) ducking a legitimate question about his work history. Sheriff Marceno needs to explain why he applied for EOT after his first stint in Suffolk County when it appears based on available information from Fox 4 that he did not have enough time on the job to qualify for that exemption at that time.
In my opinion, Marceno needs to accept Fox 4’s interview request and address this once and for all. Based on everything I’ve seen, Fox 4’s questions about that are legitimate and fair.
Until Marceno tells us what happened in 1999, this question will persistently be brought up throughout his re-election bid. It would be a shame if the election campaign for Lee County Sheriff in 2020 became focused on a technicality that was the result of a mistake that was made two decades ago, whether it was an honest mistake or otherwise.
Marceno has formally applied with Lee Elections to run for Sheriff in 2020. As of July 13, 2019, Marceno raised $163,920 in monetary contributions to his campaign. Marceno currently faces one Republican party primary challenger, Jim Leavens — who has raised $22,742 so far.
The primary election will be held on August 18, 2020. The general election is November 3, 2020.