By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Gossip has been
buzzing around the county, and presumably the ears of its newly elected sheriff
have been burning, since a Facebook video last week showed Dade’s top lawman,
Ray Cross, frolicking with his family in Panama City, Fla., on vacation – in a
brand-new Ford Explorer owned by Dade County.
Executive Chairman Ted Rumley, pursuant to the Sentinel’s open records request,
supplied the Sentinel with mileage figures on the 2013 vehicle: 9,909 when
Cross took it to the county shop for a scheduled servicing on Aug. 3, during
which it was filled with gas. When he returned it this Saturday for another
fueling, the odometer stood at 10,913, indicating that Cross had racked up
1,004 miles during his week of vacation.
said he had been among those local residents who had pulled up and watched in
amazement a video posted by the sheriff’s wife, Cindy Cross, on her Facebook
page, showing the sheriff behind the wheel of the county vehicle. “It looks
like they were going to Florida and they were singing,” he said.
that the sheriff had broken no law and was within his rights as a duly elected
constitutional officer to drive the vehicle as he pleases, but he added that his
phone has not ceased ringing since the video was posted to Facebook last
Wednesday. It has since been taken down, he said.
said Rumley, he was besieged in person over the weekend with questions about
the sheriff’s conduct. Even the staunchest Cross supporters had expressed
concern about the incident, he said. He
asked the Sentinel to make clear his own sentiments on the matter:
“None of the
Dade County commissioners, including myself, would ever take a county vehicle
on vacation,” said Rumley.
asked Sheriff Cross to make a statement of his own, and he obliged. Here, in
his own words, is what he replied in a Monday email:
“I would like
for the citizens of Dade County to know that I am on call 24/7. While away on
vacation I answered calls, emails and kept in constant touch with my officers
and was ready at a moment’s notice to return if needed. I drove my Sheriff’s
vehicle knowing that I could make a safe and expedient return if
Sheriffs of this county drove their Sheriff vehicles while vacationing and
since there is no law prohibiting this I did not feel this to be a violation of
any county or state laws.
“All of the gas
was paid 100 percent by me from my personal funds. If I had been in my personal
vehicle and an emergency did arise, I would have had to fly home at the expense
of the county. Therefore driving the Sheriff’s vehicle would prove to be much
more cost effective.
“I hope the
citizens of this county will try to understand my position. Because of the
concerns of the citizens, I will drive my personal vehicle to any further
personal trips that are not related to the office of Sheriff.”