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Pressure mounting in calls for resignation of Lee County Sheriff

Posted at 2:59 PM, Nov 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-27 21:08:28-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A former Lee County Sheriff, Major and Lieutenant are connected in a common call for action against the current sheriff.

Rodney Shoap, who was Lee County Sheriff from 2001 to 2004, says the current sheriff, Carmine Marceno, should retire. He said, "There's enough smoke, that where there's that much smoke, there's also fire."

Shoap is referring to, in part, Fox 4's investigation into Marceno's qualifications to work in his first law enforcement job in Florida. As Fox 4 first reported in July of 2019, the equivalency of training form allows out of state officers who have worked full time for at least one year, to bypass almost 800 hours of police academy when they come to the Sunshine State.

Our research showed Sheriff Marceno's experience in Suffolk County, New York did not meet those requirements, but he was allowed to sit for his exam anyway. There is also now a criminal investigation into Marceno from the state's top policing agency, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, looking into whether Marceno met the qualifications to sit for his Florida law enforcement exam.

In other words, was he ever eligible to work in law enforcement in this state? Shoap said, "As the sheriff, should he not be answering to it? When you're the sheriff, the most important thing you can do is uphold the law, and be within the law yourself."

The Ethics Commission has also recently opened an investigation into allegations the appointed sheriff has abused his power to meet women. While Marceno shows no signs of resigning, Shoap told Fox 4 anchor Jane Monreal that since our investigation, Marceno hired a lawyer, which Fox 4 did confirm.

That lawyer said he wasn't allowed to comment since there is an open investigation.

Retired Major Carmen McKinney has plenty of experience with these claims from his time working in internal affairs at the Lee County Sheriff's Office. "This is conduct that I investigated for many years, and we held those people accountable for that conduct. And those people were terminated for the very behavior Mr. Marceno is displaying," says McKinney.

"You have to wonder, are there any more Carmine Marceno's in the state of Florida with inappropriate forms and shouldn't be certified?" asks Shoap. "Even when I was the Sheriff, I had one. And we found it through circumstances that were special and of course, I terminated him right away. And, the state removed his credentials."

Fox 4 obtained documents of that officer who was let go under Shoap's tenure. FDLE found him to falsify documents in order to skip the EOT. The Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission recommended disciplinary action based on several allegations including, "Respondent has failed to maintain the qualifications established in Florida statutes, which require that a law enforcement officer in the state of Florida have good moral character."

Dr. Lee Bushong, a former Lee County lieutenant who ran for sheriff, also explains in a 94-page document, the holes in the process by which Marceno landed his first law enforcement position. Bushong includes a timeline of his career and a list of the statutes being violated. Bushong told FOX 4 that he walked it over to the Governor's office, as well as the Attorney General. The AG's office says they forwarded his complaint to FDLE. Governor DeSantis' office has yet to respond to any requests for comment.

Bushong also points out, "He had a lifetime total of about 1,203.5 hours total experience as a law enforcement officer, far less than a year's worth of full-time experience." It's a question that Fox 4 has asked the sheriff repeatedly.

"Put yourself in the place of the citizen's home watching your newscast," says Shoap. "And,they see him not only refusing to answer, but literally running from the camera. How easy is this answer?"

Marceno has stated previously, "Allegations have been proven false in the past," and says anyone saying something against him is politically motivated.

RELATED: Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno kicks off his 2020 election campaign

McKinney says, "As far as being political, I have no political agenda. I'm not supporting anybody. But I will say this, if this goes unchallenged, I will leave that option open."

Shoap has endorsed Jim Leavens for sheriff, but insists no real politics are motivating him, only pointing to the outstanding evidence. "His response is the response of a guilty person. An innocent person would have said, 'Examine me in every way. I'll make every document you request available, in a timely manner.'"

RELATED: Florida Ethics Commission now investigating Lee County's appointed Sheriff Carmine Marceno

While both investigations are open, it is important to note, since FDLE's investigation is a criminal one stemming from the alleged fraud, Marceno can invoke the fifth amendment and decline being interviewed to avoid self incrimination.

Listed below are case studies FDLE has done in the past:

Bulletin #60 - Case #37520 False Statement During the Employment Application Process

Bulletin #68 - Case #40195 False Statement During the Employment Application Process This case is interesting as the officer indicated on his application false information relating to his military service. Marceno failed to disclose his full time or part time status as a Park Ranger in Suffolk County thus violating the EOT.

Bulletin #69 - Case #41375 False Statement During The Employment Process - Again same actions that Marceno did on his Collier County Sheriff and Lee County Sheriff applications.

Bulletin #71-Case# 41523 False Statement on Employment Application- Failure to disclose previous employment. Again, same as what Mr. Marceno did on his Collier County and Lee County Sheriff Office application.

Bulletin #74- Case # 40861 False Statement on an Employment Application.