Convicted felon is main money draw at Hillborough Sheriff Chronister’s big money election fundraiser

“There’s no media allowed, Bubba,” Anthony Pedicini told the Guardian reporter (whose name was not Bubba) after the reporter has introduced himself by name. “You want to come in, you write a check for the event,” Pedicini continued.

Chronister himself attended this event, an event which promised attendees pictures of themselves with a convicted felon and his bling if they just donated $50,000. That amount would get you pictures with convicted felon Edward J. DeBartolo and his five Superbowl trophies.

The event (see invitation on the right) was a political fundraiser held at at Eddie V’s restaurant in Tampa. It was organized by Friends of Chad Chronister, the political committee working to re-elect Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.

DeBartolo was once the owner of the San Francisco 49:ers, but ceded control of the team in 2000 to his sister after he  pleaded guilty to a federal gambling-related felony in 1998. DeBartolo is also Chronister’s father-in-law.

Chronister has not legally declared his candidacy yet, which relieves him of the state legal requirement to affirmatively approve any messaging that the political committee working to re-elect him publishes. However, Chronister’s attendance at the event signals his approval of the committee’s fundraising strategy.

We asked Chronister via e-mail: “why did you attend an event where a convicted felon, Edward J. DeBartolo, was the main draw?” No answer was received by the publication deadline we provided.

Pedicini confirmed that both Chronister and his father-in-law Edward DeBartolo, Jr. were in fact present at the fundraiser.

Pedicini is a Republican political consultant who has been criticized and sued in the past over controversial political messaging, although we did not ask him if he had any role in deciding to use DeBartolo as the main draw.

We also asked the Friends of Chad Chronister committee chairperson, Donna Lusczynski, why the committee decided to have a convicted felon as the main money draw for this event. Also here, no answer was received by the publication deadline we provided. Lusczynski is also Chronister’s chief deputy and a colonel in the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO).

When HCSO detective Eric Giallanza told our reporter to leave the property because it was a private event, he confirmed to the reporter that both he and uniformed HCSO detective Anthony Koehler were on duty. Florida law states that public sector employees “may not participate in any political campaign for an elective office while on duty.” Both Giallanza and Koehler participated in the event, and other uniformed and plain clothes  HCSO deputies were also present at the event.

This lengthy and informative Tampa Bay Times article gives Chronister’s net worth as $4.7 million.  Chronister has worked his entire 27-year career at HCSO.

Chronister has said he “gets invited to a lot of events as sheriff and tries not to say no.”  Was this political fundraiser one that Chronister should have declined because of possible bad optics? Or is the cozy sheriff-felon-money relationship a sign of a deeper problem for a sheriff’s office that has not had a competitive race since 1964?

As always….the Guardian reports and our readers decide. Like our Facebook page to find out when we publish articles.

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