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GOP women’s club disputes Sheriff’s bill for rally security

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of May 20, 2021)
Photo: Marjorie Taylor Greene speaking at America First rally on Saturday, April 24, 2021.

The Sheriff’s Office billed the Republican Women of Indian River nearly $5,000 for providing security last month at the club’s “America First Rally” at the county fairgrounds, where controversial Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene was the featured speaker.

The club, however, will pay only a fraction of that amount.

According to past-president Linda Teetz, who handles the group’s financial reporting, the 350-member club has agreed to pay for six of the eight deputies needed for security and traffic control at the April 24 event.

She said the Sheriff’s Office would cover the costs of the other two deputies because Greene was a member of Congress and “they have to protect all federal officials who come to the county.”

The invoice from the Sheriff’s Office, however, listed 20 deputies – each working from 6 a.m. to noon at a scale of $40 or $45 per hour – for a total of $4,920.

“We said we pay for six, and then we get to the rally and we’ve got a zillion deputies that we didn’t agree to,” Teetz said. “Why they needed a SWAT team there, I don’t know.

“We certainly didn’t expect that many deputies,” she added. “It was dumbfounding to us.”

To be sure, there was a noticeable police presence at the rally, which attracted only three protesters: a man standing outside the fairgrounds’ gate and holding a sign that read, “Fruit Loops For Breakfast,” and two women standing outside the Expo Center entrance with protest signs.

Democrats of Indian River had put out a social-media statement saying it would not protest the event.

Teetz said she was out of town when the club received the invoice and didn’t know what prompted the Sheriff’s Office to increase its security force or who made the decision, but she was stunned by the total amount.

“Someone from the club called me and asked, ‘Have you seen the bill?’” Teetz said. “When I found out, I almost blew a gasket.”

Eventually, Teetz said, she reached Sheriff Eric Flowers via text message and he told her: “Linda, don’t worry about it. Don’t have an anxiety attack. I’ll take care of it.”

She said the club hadn’t yet received an amended invoice, but she expected the cost to be about $3,000 less than the previous bill.

As of Monday, Flowers had not responded to an email seeking an explanation of the billing dispute.

The invoice, however, lists by name the 20 deputies assigned to the event: four at $270 each ($45 per hour) and 16 at $240 ($40 per hour).

If the club is charged for only six deputies – three at the higher rate and three at the lower rate – the total would be $1,530. Subtract that amount from the total bill of $4,920, and the Sheriff’s Office must cover $3,390 of the cost of providing security for the event.

Even if you deduct the $540 the agency would’ve paid for two of the higher-paid deputies to provide security for Greene, anyway, the Sheriff’s Office still must absorb the $2,820 for the other 12 deputies Teetz said weren’t needed.

The Republican women’s club also hired two security guards with metal-detecting wands to scan every person who attended the rally, which was held inside the Expo Center. The cost for that service was $1,100, Teetz said.

“So, all in all, we spent almost $3,000 for security,” she said. “We weren’t going to make any money on this, anyway, and we broke even.”

Teetz said the club did not pay Greene or any of the rally’s other speakers.

The club did pay for venue rent and the breakfast food supplied by Chick-fil-A.