Undersheriff returns to duty following disciplinary review
Henry Pierson Curtis
Sentinel Staff Writer
12:25 PM EDT, October 8, 2007
Undersheriff Malone Stewart returned to duty today at the Orange County Sheriff's Office a week after being stripped of his gun and badge.
Sheriff Kevin Beary took the action after Stewart gave an unapproved TV interview about his personal plan to reduce armed robberies.
"I'm glad to be back," Stewart said this afternoon.
The disciplinary review also involved a previously undisclosed accusation that the 30-year veteran dumped a glass of iced tea on an agency employee during an argument over lunch, according to records released today.
A review of what happened Aug. 21 at Mama Nems' Restaurant exonerated Stewart.
Other deputies and employees at the lunch meeting gave sworn statements that Stewart accidentally knocked over a glass of tea when he stood up suddenly and left the restaurant before being served, records show.
Stewart acknowledged in an interview with sheriff's Division Chief Steve Jones that he failed to notify the agency's Media Relations Office about an exclusive interview he gave Sept. 26to a WFTV-Channel 9 reporter.
Agency policy requires "that supervisors ensure that information concerning newsworthy events which has been released to the press during the absence of the Public Information Officer be reported to the PIO as soon as possible."
During the interview, Stewart had proposed assigning undercover deputies to pose as shoppers and clerks in stores in high-crime areas.
"It's a tough way, it's going gun against gun, but we do not have a choice," he said, according to sheriff's reports. "There is going to be a lot of people shot and in that shooting it very well could be some deputy sheriffs."
Beary personally signed and issued Stewart a disciplinary form upon his return to duty at 10 a.m. today.
"The perception created in your interview may have been taken by persons on the street that we are putting undercover deputies in Orange County businesses posting as employees and customers," Beary wrote. "This puts innocent citizens in danger of being mistaken as law enforcement officers and could have led to dire consequences.
"Furthermore, our agency has a detailed and well thought out plan to combat violent crime in our community and you should have discussed your ideas with our command staff first."
Henry Pierson Curtis can be reached at 407-420- 5257 or firstname.lastname@example.org.