3 Lee code enforcement officers resign after caught talking on clock

Three Lee County code enforcement officers caught talking on the clock last week by a TV news crew resigned effective Thursday, a county official said.

Bruce Thornton, Thomas Giraldi and John Mitchem had been suspended without pay after they were seen apparently trying to hide their vehicles, killing time before clocking out.

When a TV reporter questioned the men, they immediately told their supervisor. They were suspended and the county began looking into the incident. On Wednesday, their supervisor advised them of possible punishment and gave each 24 hours to respond. On Thursday, all three resigned.

“It’s disappointing and unfortunate,” community development spokeswoman Joan LaGuardia said. “I don’t think it’s a systemic problem.”

The three, on occasion over the past couple of months, parked their county vehicles in a vacant lot off Fowler Street, an alleged effort to hide from their supervisor. They’d hang out and talk until it was time to drop off their vehicles in the monitored county parking lot.

The spot on Fowler was close enough to their territories so they could respond in time if a supervisor wanted to meet with them.

“It was all set up for an explanation,” LaGuardia said.

Thornton joined the county in 2004 and made about $40,000 a year. Giraldi was hired in 2005 and earned about $37,000 and Mitchem joined in 2008 and made about $34,000.

Lee County now has 24 code enforcement officers. Whether the county fills the three positions is a budget decision, LaGuardia said.

All three signed documents to withhold certain personal information from public records requests, including contact information.

None could be reached for comment by online telephone listings for Thornton and Giraldi. A number for Mitchem could not be found.

Connect with Tara E. McLaughlin at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tara-mclaughlin/

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