Former Bay County Sheriff is Closer to Becoming Florida's Top Cop

By: Courtney Hayes
By: Courtney Hayes

Former Bay County Sheriff Guy Tunnell has been serving as the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for six months even though he hasn't received the state's official stamp of approval. Now, he's halfway there.

A Senate committee voted to appoint Tunnell to the FDLE commissioner's job despite testimony from some local residents.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee voted to approve Gov. Jeb Bush's appointment of Guy Tunnell to head the Florida Department of Law Enforcement much to the displeasure of two Bay County men.

"You don't elect a man and put him in a position to be the top cop of one of the greatest states in the United States that is a user of narcotics, self admitted that leaves the scene of an accident with injuries of two children, that violates the civil rights of people no matter what color they are," says Bay County resident, Barry Lenzer.

During testimony at a Senate Confirmation hearing Monday morning the former Bay County sheriff did admit to using pot as a teenager, but says it was a youthful indiscretion.

Tunnell also told Senators he did not leave the scene of an accident, he says was only cited for a lane-change violation. Monday's approval was based largely on an inquiry by the Florida Highway Patrol, a report one Bay County man calls a sham.

Kevin Wood says it includes many omissions, including witness testimony regarding the 1998 Sundancer club incident in which a lawsuit was filed against Tunnel claiming he conspired to put the club out of business because it catered to a predominately African-American clientele.

"If indeed all the evidence came out about the Sundancer club and harassment they'd have to put the man in jail," says Bay County resident Kevin Wood.

Tunnell has maintained all along the arrests at the Sundancer nightclub were not race-based. He told the Senate committee he would work to make Florida safer if appointed as Florida's top cop.

"During my tenure at FDLE and with the help of many dedicated and professional men and women, I've pledged to continue the agencies great tradition of excellence," says acting FDLE Commissioner, Guy Tunnell.

Even with Wood and Lenzer's opposition to Guy Tunnell's appointment, committee members voted 8 to 0 in favor of his confirmation.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will consider Tunnell's appointment Tuesday afternoon. Then Tunnell must win approval from the full Senate.


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