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Former County Administrator Joe Baird charged with stalking his ex-girlfriend

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of July 7, 2022)

Former Indian River County Administrator Joe Baird plans to plead “not guilty” and go to trial to fight a misdemeanor charge that he stalked his ex-girlfriend in May, his attorney said last week.

Baird, 65, was arrested on June 27, after returning to Vero Beach from a rented summer home in Rhode Island and turning himself in at the County Jail, where he spent the night before being released the next morning after posting a $2,500 bond.

In a probable-cause affidavit used to obtain an arrest warrant on June 24, Vero Beach Police Detective Jennifer Brumley wrote that Baird “willfully, maliciously and repeatedly followed, harassed and cyberstalked” his former longtime girlfriend.

Baird’s attorney, Andy Metcalf, disputed the allegations and dismissed them as the remnants of a “bad breakup,” referring to the couple’s romantic-but-tumultuous, eight-year relationship that the woman claims to have ended in February.

The couple had lived together on an on-and-off basis in Baird’s Indian River Shores home since April 2019.

Metcalf said he was “shocked” the police pursued the case after the woman’s efforts to obtain a restraining order against his client were denied by Circuit Judge Robert Meadows after a four-hour hearing on June 7.

“This case was already litigated,” said Metcalf, who represented Baird at the hearing. “She had an attorney. The judge gave them all day to make their case, and they couldn’t do it. He determined there were no acts of stalking, and he denied the injunction.

“There are no new facts.”

The woman said last weekend, however, that Meadows didn’t consider all of the facts – because, she claimed, the judge refused to view visual evidence collected by a private investigator she had hired.

She said the investigator, who was allowed to testify at the hearing, wasn’t permitted to support his testimony with photographs and videos that showed Baird stalking her.

According to Brumley’s sworn affidavit, the woman said the stalking began May 1, when she noticed her 2021 Porsche had been “keyed.” She suspected Baird, but when she confronted him, he denied it.

The next day, the woman returned to her Ocean Club I home and noticed Baird in his car, parked across the street. Nearly four hours later, as she left her residence, she saw Baird pulling out of a parking lot across A1A.

At one point, she pulled over and, when he stopped nearby, told him: “I know you’re following me. I noticed you parked across the street earlier, and now you’re here again. Quit stalking me, or I’m going to get a restraining order.”

The woman then drove to her parents’ Central Beach home with Baird still following her, the affidavit states, though he didn’t turn onto the same street. Minutes later, however, Baird phoned her parents and began “rambling” to her father.

Her father quickly cut him off, telling him, “This has gone too far,” and warning: “If you don’t leave my daughter alone and quit following her, I will personally take her to the police station and file a report.”

The affidavit states that the woman noticed Baird’s car parked across the street from her home “several times” from May 11 through May 17, and she took photos to document his presence.

She finally contacted the Vero Beach Police Department on May 17 and said she had received multiple text messages and phone calls from Baird, and she believed he was stalking her.

The woman told Brumley she texted Baird on May 1 to say, “Don’t contact me,” but his texts and calls kept coming. After reviewing the texts, Brumley spoke with Baird by phone and told him the woman no longer wanted any contact with him and that, if the harassment and stalking continued, he could be criminally charged.

“Baird said he understood and agreed he would not have any further contact” with the woman, the affidavit states.

Three hours later, the woman saw Baird’s car parked across the street from her home.

She also noticed him following her as she drove to an appointment near Conn Beach. Once there, she observed him driving in the area.

When the woman returned home, she again saw Baird’s car parked across the street. The affidavit states that she took photos of his car whenever she noticed it near her home.

Realizing the stalking wasn’t going to stop, the affidavit continues, the woman hired a private investigator, who she said documented each time he observed Baird following and stalking her. Those episodes included Baird:

• Standing on the boardwalk across from the woman’s condominium and staring at the building.

• Driving past, parking near and pacing back and forth – occasionally ducking behind trees and bushes – in front of a Cardinal Drive bank in which the woman was doing business.

• Riding his bicycle back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the woman’s home and staring at the building.

• Repeatedly circling the block in his car while the woman and her mother were having dinner at The Tides.

The woman, who has owned a summer home in Newport, Rhode Island, for the past five years, told Brumley that Baird recently signed a four-month lease to rent a house less than a half-mile away.

She said she doesn’t plan to go to Newport this summer “because she is afraid of Baird, and believes he rented the house there to intimidate, stalk and harass her,” the affidavit states.

Metcalf, though, said Baird has begun a new relationship with a different woman and was living with her in Newport before learning of the arrest warrant and returning to Vero Beach to answer the stalking charge.

In fact, Metcalf rejected the woman’s claim that she ended the relationship, saying, “Joe asked her to move out.” He also offered a far different story as to what happened in the months since the couple’s breakup.

Metcalf said the woman returned to Baird’s home “10 or 12 times” and phoned him a “hundred times” between February and May. He said the woman also sent Baird text messages asking if she could still share his membership at Quail Valley.

The woman said last weekend she left Baird’s home on Feb. 11 due to “domestic violence,” and asked Indian River Shores police to accompany her as she removed her belongings.

She said she hoped the breakup would be amicable and tried to remain cordial with Baird, whom she claims allowed her to continue to share his Quail Valley membership.

Baird, whose arraignment is scheduled for July 19, served as county administrator from 2004 to 2016.

The woman, who asked that her name be withheld under Florida’s victims’ rights law, has lived in the Vero Beach area for 13 years, most of the time on the barrier island.