By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
In his final year as a police sergeant in Coral Springs in 2016, Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony used his city email account to forward various law enforcement records, including a sensitive FBI report, to himself at his private safety training business.
Likewise, Tony sent numerous emails from his city email box looking to drum up business for both his company, Blue Spear Solutions, and North American Rescue, the South Carolina “casualty care” company where Tony would soon goto work as a salaried executive. Florida Bulldog previously reported that after Gov. Ron DeSantis named Tony as sheriff last year, the Broward Sheriff’s Office paid North American as much as $750,000 for bleeding control kits.
Tony also sent other law enforcement information to North American using his official email.
Those findings and others emerged from Florida Bulldog’s review of more than 8,500 pages of emails sent or received at then-Sgt. Tony’s Coral Springs email account in 2016. The city released the records in response to a public records request.
On April 4, 2016, FBI Intelligence Analyst Darrell Reiff attached a SITREP, or situational report, in an email sent out to a half-dozen federal and state entities including BSO, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and the Southeast Florida Fusion Center, an anti-terrorist collaboration of federal, state, local and tribal agencies.
The report, prepared by FBI headquarters, was about a trio of coordinated suicide bombings in Brussels 13 days earlier. A total of 32 civilians died, as well as three perpetrators. The Islamic State claimed credit for the slaughter.
‘For Official Use Only’
Reiff included a warning that the FBI report was “UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY [U//FOUO].” The federal government uses the FOUO designation to mark information whose unauthorized disclosure “could adversely impact…operations essential to the national interest.” Such a document “shall not be sent to personal email accounts,” federal rules say. Unauthorized disclosure could lead to the revocation of security clearances.
A copy of Reiff’s email and the Brussels report soon landed in Tony’s Coral Springs email box. On April 14, 2016, Tony forwarded a copy to his personal email account at Blue Spear Solutions, the company he and his wife, Holly Tony, founded in October 2015.
Sheriff Tony’s election campaign put out this statement: “There is nothing improper about forwarding unclassified documents available to the public. Sheriff Tony was working then, as he is now, to keep Broward County residents safe from mass casualty incidents.”
Tony declined to be interviewed or answer written questions about why he forwarded the Brussels email, and others, to his private email.
The FBI report, however, was likely helpful in augmenting Blue Spear’s business of charging fees to “train public and private sector stakeholders in the nation’s first all encompassing Active Shooter response training program, the Co. A.S.S.I.S.T.@ Program.” Blue Spear’s website describes the program as a “three-tier systematic approach to preparation,” including active shooter awareness and response, bleeding control techniques and “strategic placement of public access bleeding controls stations,” like those sold by the company.
Tony to North American Rescue
Other information Tony obtained in the line of duty was transmitted to North American Rescue from his city email account.
On Aug. 10, 2016, Coral Springs Police Sgt. Carla Kmiotek emailed Tony a PDF of “Ambushes of Police,” a joint study by the U.S. Justice Department’s Community Oriented Police Services Office and CNA, a nonprofit research organization. The city crime analyst who sent it to Kmiotek thought it might be “good training material.”
“Please take the time to read the study on officer ambushes and attacks!” Kmiotek told Tony.
On Aug. 11, 2016, Tony sent the “Ambushes of Police” PDF from his city account to North American Rescue Vice President Brent Bronson. He marked it of “high” importance.
In early March 2016, the police department’s Youth Liaison Officer sent out to the ranks a list “of the emergency code colors and procedures that the Broward County School System utilizes when an emergency occurs. Each school has individual procedures that they follow within this system but these are the core colors and their meanings should you hear one of us use these.”
Night shift emails
Tony was then a patrol supervisor working the overnight shift. At 1:22 a.m. on March 9 he forwarded from his city email account to Blue Spear an attachment with the emergency school codes.
Five days later, Tony sent another early morning email – this time to a city dispatch supervisor asking for a copy of an audio file regarding case number 16-1731. The file was sent to Tony at 3:20 a.m., and 30 minutes later he forwarded that .wav file to himself at email@example.com
The case involved a stolen vehicle and began as a reckless driving incident. After Tony sent the audio file to himself, he forwarded to several police officers. One note said, “training for you.”
Later that morning Tony also sent a copy to his supervisor, Coral Springs Lt. Travis Neese, writing, “…Pulled for audio examination. Self examination…”
Other Tony emails to himself from his city account were a mishmosh. For example, on March 23, 2016, they included photos of two victims of the Brussels bombing attack.
The Coral Springs emails show, too, that Tony used his position as a city police officer to build his private training business. At 1:45 am. on Jan. 5, 2016, Tony wrote city Fire Department Training Chief Robert McGilloway to inquire about setting up a training “partnership” between Blue Spear and the city’s public safety institute. Later that day, Tony forwarded that email to city Battalion Chief Michael Ferrara who Tony addressed as “Brother Mike,” informed him he’s started Blue Spear. Ferrara responded, “I’ll speak to Rob next time I see him and put in a good word for you.”
“Outstanding. I appreciate the support,” Tony replied.
More on North American Rescue
One month later, Tony wrote to several of the department’s top brass, including then-Deputy Police Chief Clyde Parry, to ask for permission to inform North American Rescue and another private company about life-saving commendations given to several Coral Springs officers. Tony said North American published accounts of such life-saving actions that included the use of their products.
“I see no issue sharing the write-up,” Parry wrote back the same day. “Just make sure any items (if any) that should be redacted are.”
Tony informed the three policemen nominated for commendations. “North American Rescue will be placing your names and heroic actions on their social media page,” Tony wrote. “Stay safe and win all fights. Out!”
North American Rescue was on Tony’s mind again on June 28 when he dispatched a 2:02 a.m. email to Coral Springs police Captain George Soberon inquiring about the availability of city funds to “continue supplying patrol with Mass Casualty Incidents (MCI) Kits.”
Tony told Soberon he’d like to buy more of those kits at a cost of $1,700-$1,800 each. He noted that he had a sample of new MCI kits from North American Rescue. “It is the best designed kits in the industrial and it was just released,” Tony wrote. “I have the only one in Florida…it would be nice to be the first City in the State to equip their patrol division with these kits.”
Pitching Blue Spear
Using his police email account, Tony made similar pitches to provide Blue Spear’s “active shooter training” to Coral Springs Police civilian employees. On Aug. 5, he asked Jenny Uhde, an executive assistant at the department, if she’d be interested in that “opportunity.”
“I’ve always had a special place for you in my heart. You’ve been a mentor and strong supporter of me. I’d be honored to train you or any of your family members at a ‘special discounted rate.’
“Normal fees for the course are $300 and includes an individual Blue Spear Bleeding Control Kit,” Tony said. The discounted rate: $240.
“You’d be proud of the amount of people we are training and educating. We have been super busy,” Tony said.
Tony resigned as a Coral Springs police officer on Sept. 19, 2016 and joined North American Rescue a short time later. The city emails show that by then tensions with his superiors were running high.
On Aug. 19, Tony fired off a bitter email to his shift lieutenant and other higher-ups complaining how “in the span of two weeks I’ve been pulled off the road to discuss my annual sick leave usage.”
After denying any wrongdoing, Tony said, “Whether intentional or indirectly implied the message sent is that I abuse my leave. These inquiries are now floating around amongst my peers and subordinates depicting me as a potential policy violator. I rarely have something to say in matters of administrative decisions. However, my reputation amongst my officers and peers means dear to me. This type of inquire creates unnecessary stress in the work environment that diminishes trust and morale.
“Should you have any other questions about my leave usage that don’t comply with City or Department policy, I will be requesting the presence of my FOP representative,” Tony wrote.