WALDO, Fla. - Big changes are coming for the small town of Waldo, where allegations of wrong-doing by Police Chief Mike Szabo have prompted two investigations by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“Everybody has known about it and it's been going on for a long period of time,” said Senator Rob Bradley, who called Waldo a speed trap that is a black eye on the entire state. “We want, when people come to visit Florida, to know that they're not dealing with jurisdictions that are giving tickets, not for public safety, but to prop up the budgets of their departments.”
In late August, Waldo officers told the city council that Szabo ordered them to write 12 tickets every 12 hour shift, prior to his suspension in early August for reasons that have yet to be made public. Following that suspension, the FDLE launched the first of two investigations. The second is focused on the ticket quote allegation.
On Wednesday, Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell took action after the interim chief, Cpl. Kenneth Smith, was also suspended after additional complaints from the officers.
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“This is a very serious issue that needed to be addressed,” said Darnell, just hours after signing an agreement with the Waldo city manager. Alachua County Acting Captain Steven Maynard will step into the Interim Police Chief position for at least 30 days.
“There's been too much distraction for those officers and government there,” Darnell told Action News. “We want to refocus and do what needs to be done. I want them to not worry about public safety and to put some stability, some teamwork in place, and some collaboration to serve the citizens of Waldo.”
A public relations company representing the city of Waldo tells Action News that the agreement can be extended beyond the 30 days, and until the FDLE completes the two investigations. According to Darnell, the city of Waldo council must first ratify the agreement before it takes effect.
Szabo is suspended with pay. His current salary is $52,340.97. Smith is also suspended with pay at an hourly rate of $13.93.
RELATED: Waldo police officers say chief forced them to write tickets