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Sheriff Candidates Face Tough Voter Questions Wednesday

Recent investigations into accusations of improper investigative techniques are fueling many of the questions that will be posed to candidates in the race for Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Expect "fireworks" when Pinellas County sheriffs candidates face off on Wednesday at a forum in Dunedin, organizer Harvey Smith says.

Smith said questions for the candidates will focus on management of the office and policy enforcement. He said the questions stem from questionable investigation techniques recently reported in the Tampa Bay Times.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, some Pinellas County Sheriff's detectives formerly in the narcotics division were accused of illegally trespassing private property to gain access to suspected marijuana grow houses, using a staff informant to repeatedly access Progress Energy utility information without a subpoena and misleading the State Attorney's office. (See full story in the Tampa Bay Times.)

Incumbent Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has reportedly launched several investigations into the incidents, which pre-date his appointment to the office.

Gualtieri (R), whom Gov. Rick Scott appointed to replace , is being challenged by former sheriff Everett Rice (R).

Other candidates include Tim Ingold (R), Scott Swope (D), Randy Heine (D) and Greg Pound(I).

The forum is the first time all Pinellas County sheriff candidates have gathered at the same time.

While Clearwater Police enforce the majority of the city, there are unincorporated areas under the sheriff's scope.

The forum will last two hours beginning at 7 p.m. at the , 360 Douglas Ave. Only 200 seats will be available. 

Pinellas County voters who cannot attend may participate by sending questions for any of the candidates to Smith at hsmithconsulsv@aol.com.

The best questions will be used in the forum's question-and-answer session.

Bay News 9 senior anchor Al Ruechel is moderating. 

The  is hosting.

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