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How Hernando Public Information Officers Cheat the Taxpayer, Refuse to Answer Questions, Attack Those Who Ask

REGIONAL – According to a 2016 survey conducted by the National Information Officers Association (NIOA), about 50% of law enforcement public information officers (PIOs) say “There are reporters or media outlets I will not allow officers to talk to because of problems with their stories in the past.” Accessing public information has become a virtual cat and mouse game for crime and police reporters, especially with the growing number of online journalists who deliver news faster than most broadcast and print outlets – like Real News Real Fast.

RNRF has covered local news throughout Hernando, Pasco, and Citrus Counties – mostly Hernando County (HCSO) – for nearly seven years, and until recently, access to the HCSO has been relatively simple. But that harmonious relationship began to crumble last year, after RNRF published several investigative reports into Sheriff Al Nienhuis’s ostensibly bizarre relationship with Dawn Center, and more recently, the controversy over immigration issues.

The liaison between HCSO officials and the media is PIO, Denise Moloney, who began her career with the Sheriff’s Office in the 911 operations center, before taking over as PIO in 2012. In 2014 her title changed to Community and Media Relations Manager, and she currently receives a salary of just over $74,000 per year, which ranks at the top of the pay scale for PIOs with 20-plus years of experience, and extensive backgrounds in journalism – Moloney has neither.

In stark contrast, the Community Relations Director for the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, Kevin Doll, does have an extensive background in journalism and holds a B.A. and M.A. in Mass Communications/Public Relations. He served 8-years with the U.S. Marines, was a combat correspondent during the Gulf War, and after 20-years with PSO, Doll’s salary is just $8,000 more than Moloney’s, at $82,784.

Pasco Sheriff’s Office has two additional PIOs who also have multiple years experience in broadcast journalism, and they make an average of $15,000 less than Moloney.

But the significance in revealing this information is more than just to provide a monetary comparison. There are profound differences between the agency’s work ethic, professionalism, and degree of transparency with the media.

RNRF communicates with Moloney and her associate, PIO Michael Terry, nearly every day of the week but now that RNRF is in the “doghouse” with Sheriff Nienhuis, Moloney has become less than accommodating to RNRF’s requests for information – and that’s an understatement. But who really suffers the consequences?  The inquiring minds of 36,000 RNRF viewers, i.e. the taxpayer, that’s who.

Prior to Nienhuis taking offense to our investigation into his affiliation with the non-profit, Dawn Center, Moloney was always accommodating to our requests for quotes, statements, and documentation. And usually without charge. But that has all changed.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was last year’s coverage of immigration issues, where the Center for Immigration Studies claimed that Hernando was at risk of losing federal funding. Rather than responding to our request for comment, prior to publishing the article, Nienhuis waited and proceeded to call RNRF “Fake News,” after the fact. As a result of Nienhuis’s ensuing boycott campaign, RNRF was subjected to a barrage of harassing messages, threatening emails, and ultimately, the loss of some of our sponsors.

To give you an idea of how immature the highly compensated PIO treats a media outlet when they aren’t happy with a story; here is a recent email thread, where I attempt to gain public information on recent vicious dog attacks:

From Tom Lemons, January 17, 2018:

Good morning, 

I noticed that you posted animal enforcement calls on the agency FB page. 

Out of the 531 complaints this year, are you able to delineate which of those are vicious dog attacks, and from those, which are related to Pit Bulls specifically? 

Commissioner Steve Champion says he will be opening discussion about vicious dog attacks in the next BOCC meeting. From an enforcement perspective, does the Sheriff have any comments regarding dog attacks and or Pit Bulls in general? Has or will anything be done to try to quell the number of attacks against animals or humans by vicious dogs? Does HCSO or the Sheriff recognize the term “Pit Bull” as a breed? There are a lot of advocates who say the term Pit Bull is not accurate. 

Are there plans in motion to relinquish control of enforcement and turn it over to the County? 

There are reports that a volunteer was attacked by a Pit Bull within the last week or so at the shelter. Can you provide the incident report if it is available? 

Reply from Denise Moloney:

Good morning, Mr. Lemons:

We do not have a record responsive to your request, as we do not track that specific information.

If you provide a date, time, and/or case # regarding an incident at the HCAS shelter, I will be happy to have our Records staff check to see if there is a report, and if so, if it is available.

Response from Tom Lemons:

Okay, 

Are you saying the Sheriff does not wish to answer the questions I provided to you? 

Also, I don’t have an exact date of the incident, but I will find out during my tour of the facility this week and get back to you. 

When she did not reply, I sent the following email in a new thread:

Good afternoon,

Maybe there was an oversight with my prior email.

Can you please forward the following questions to Sheriff Al Nienhuis:

Commissioner Steve Champion says he will be opening discussion about vicious dog attacks in the next BOCC meeting.

From an enforcement perspective, does the Sheriff have any comments regarding dog attacks and or Pit Bulls in general?

Has or will anything be done to try to quell the number of attacks against animals or humans by vicious dogs?

Does HCSO or the Sheriff recognize the term “Pit Bull” as a breed? There are a lot of advocates who say the term Pit Bull is not accurate.

Are there plans in motion to relinquish control of enforcement and turn it over to the County?

I am not requesting a “record.” These are basic questions to the top Law Enforcement Officer of Hernando County. The subject of vicious dog attacks is a serious concern in the community and citizens deserve to hear from the agency that handles enforcement.

If the Sheriff does not wish to reply, please state “No Comment.”

As the liaison between the media and Sheriff Al Nienhuis, it is your job to provide our question to Nienhius and respond with a reply – not decide which media outlet “deserves” access. That seems to be the case in recent months.

Thank you,

As expected, I did not receive a reply form Moloney or Sheriff Nienhuis.

The most common response that I now receive from Moloney, other than an arrest affidavit, is “The HCSO does not have a public record responsive to this request.” So, that means that you, the RNRF viewer, is paying the lead Public Information Officer for the Sheriff’s Office to block access to public information.

Another weapon in Moloney’s arsenal of preventing public information access, is through charging RNRF exorbitant research rates before delivering information. Over the last year, Moloney has sent several invoices ranging in amounts between $10.00 and $1,000 to receive information that is readily accessible with just the stroke of a computer key. No other agency has ever presented proposals for work to be done, unless we are asking for dozens of printed documents or hours of research.

Pasco County Public Information Officers and all other agencies that I work with week-to-week conduct themselves in a professional and courteous manner. They do not take offense to questions and they are always available, day and night, to respond to media questions.

But the “resistance” seems to have afflicted our Hernando County School District Public Information Officer as well, however, that’s old news and our frustrations with School Board PIO, Karen Jordan, is shared with nearly every media outlet in the Tampa Bay Area.

For example, on the heels of yesterday’s positive story about the bus driver who passed our test to try and pick up a child without being on his Purple Dot list, Jordan sent the follow letter in response:  (CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY)

Good morning, Tom.

I have a concern related to the “test” you performed on a member of our

staff yesterday. 

While, the story was positive, the larger concern is that you initiated a

mock “abduction” of a child as a setup of our staff. 

Your “test” subjected our bus driver to a public review of performance

that was never in question. 

If you had a ‘concern’ about our processes that we use to protect

students, we would have been happy to provide content for your story. I

wonder, will this “gotcha” approach lead others to craft their own

scenarios? What if a child on the bus reported to their parent that there

had been an attempted abduction? What if a confrontation had been the

result? 

As a member of the media, I know you believe in your civic and

professional responsibility to report on issues affecting public safety

but there was no incident that warranted this type of challenge. 

Tom, our world can be scary at times. As an organization dedicated to the

education and well-being of children, we never take our responsibility

lightly. The safety of our kids is our primary focus and priority.

Despite our efforts to restore a more amicable relationship, for you to

have performed this test reveals your lingering mistrust of our school

district. This exercise was wreckless, dangerous and serves to breed

distrust between the community and our organization.  

And, tell me, what value does that add to our community?  

Karen Jordan

Public Information Officer

Hernando County School District

And it should be noted that Karen Jordan refused to provide her salary and work history upon request. All others responded without question.

The question raised by journalists who experience PIO road blocks, such as those demonstrated above, is why are we paying for information that the taxpayer already pays to be made accessible to journalists? In essence, why are we paying twice for work that is already paid for? Are citizens of this county billed every time a Sheriff’s Deputy responds to their home? Are parents billed each day that a student goes to school? No. So, why are reporters billed to access public information that is already in their files?

RNRF charges insurance companies and attorneys when they request video or photographs for their cases. Should we charge the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office for the hours of video evidence that we have provided free of charge over the years? No, and we will never charge an agency for our services because it is our civic duty to help law enforcement whenever possible. With that said, I thought I would see how Moloney would respond if I submitted an invoice for recent DUI video that I provided.

From Denise Moloney:

Law enforcement officials are entitled to gather and seize original evidence.  It is unfortunate that you no longer wish to voluntarily cooperate with law enforcement in situations where you have made yourself a witness.  In the future, if necessary, we will be required to have a subpoena issued, if such evidence is deemed necessary by the state attorney.

Once again, Moloney proves her lack of knowledge in journalism, in that a reporter, cannot “be made a witness,” in most cases. It’s also a prime example of Moloney’s lack of gratitude for RNRF’s continual aid in providing valuable case evidence, free of charge.

President of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Rebecca Baker said in a recent report, “These restrictions have become an illustration of the inevitable corrosiveness of censorship. Millions of people are silenced about how their workplace affects people. Managers use the control mechanism to keep everything from the public except the story they want people to hear,”

Kathryn Foxhill of SPJ said, “The restrictions have become, in great part, a cultural norm in the United States. They also have become an effective form of censorship by which powerful entities keeps the public ignorant about what impacts them.”

A note from RNRF President, Tom Lemons:

As mentioned earlier in this article, due to the boycott efforts and defamation campaign initiated by Nienhuis and his associates (Politicians), RNRF has suffered great financial loss and may not be able to continue operations without assistance from our viewers.

If you would like to help RNRF remain the only news source in the region to deliver unadulterated news, please subscribe and make a small contribution to receive our monthly newsletter.

We appreciate your continued support. (Please Click the Image Below to Make a Donation) 

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ™2013 – 2018 RNRF Incorporated.

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Comments
  • Tom your doing a wonderful job!You are keeping the checks and balances going on in for public officials to be held accountable.Without the free press,all sorts of nonsense is hidden and not transparent.The sheriffs office is scared and petrified of the media and what you put out about them.Trust me,I know.Keep up the good work and check out the youtube videos of high desert crime watch and see how they do audits on public officials and on buildings that we own as taxpayers..not them…Start doing first amendment audit checks locally as that’s needed also.Thanks again Tom for what you do.

    Thursday, 25 January 2018, 7:29 pm
  • Don’t let this distract you from the the fact that in 1966, Al Bundy scored four touchdowns in a single game while playing for the Polk High School Panthers in the 1966 city championship game versus Andrew Johnson High School, including the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds against his old nemesis, Bubba “Spare Tire” Dixon.

    Tuesday, 23 January 2018, 12:05 pm
  • I am pretty sure salary schedules for ALL Hernando County School District employees are posted for EVERYONE to see on their website…hernandoschools.org.

    Monday, 22 January 2018, 8:58 am
  • Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.. An observation that a person’s sense of morality lessens as his or her power increases. The Sheriff has a tough job to do however, the Sheriff and the department must operate in a transparent manner or public trust will be compromised. Tom RNRF has every right to ask the tough questions and we the citizens of the county have the right to hear the answers. If we the citizens are not satisfied with the departments transparency our recourse is found at the voting booth.

    Sunday, 21 January 2018, 8:05 pm
  • how did you misunderstand this so badly? they can’t answer the question because they don’t track by breeds…you went off on a tangent from there but it was very clear from her first response. i wouldn’t reply to anyone who couldn’t understand either. you’re trying to instigate trouble.

    Sunday, 21 January 2018, 5:08 pm
    • K= breeds, tangent, who are you talking about,? ?? Please explain, if it’s TOM u r talking about, please take your meds!! FAN OF RNRF. SUPPORT, SUPPORT!!!

      Sunday, 21 January 2018, 7:32 pm
      • honey, i was responding to the article, just above. they can’t answer the question he asked regarding pit bulls because they don’t keep information regarding the certain breeds of dogs in that manner. He then went off on a tangent, as though he was waiting for them to give him a problem.

        don’t assume that i take medication, just because i used words that you didn’t understand. there’s no current pill to take to be smarter, which is a pity for you, doll.

        Sunday, 21 January 2018, 8:50 pm
        • K= to assume that I like being called honey or doll, is sick. I AM A MAN, HAPPY MARRIED TO A WOMAN. I personally don’t care what your sexual preference is, yep no pill for that either. So save your honey and doll for whatever your sexual preference is and after reading the posts on here regarding the women being talked about, maybe you can start there. Not so smart after all are you K. I don’t for one minute believe Tom went on a tangent, Just keep trying to cover up everything, it’s gonna eventually come back to bite you in the butt. Course you might like the bite you in the butt, pervert.You really aren’t worth the time I took to post this. SUPPORT RNRF AND TOM PEOPLE, The truth will prevail.

          Monday, 22 January 2018, 12:44 pm
  • Remember the part in the movie Nightcrawler where Tom (aka Lou Bloom) is taking chain link fence from the rail yard in order to sell for scrap and he almost gets caught…….

    Sunday, 21 January 2018, 9:46 am
    • This seems like 1 of Als boys writing. Scott lamia ,Schneider and others I know are corrupt and will make up and wrongfully accuse citizens of hernando county .when they commit crimes themselves, they don’t need to wear a badge or be an officer. They do criminal activities for themselves and their so called. Leader . Al .

      Sunday, 21 January 2018, 7:51 pm
  • I personally don’t know of a time that the HCSO didn’t have a LOT to hide. Until they come clean on the killings they can not be transparent. Forget it. Get a sheriff that will actually investigate his own.

    Sunday, 21 January 2018, 1:46 am
  • My comment must have made you emotional enough to erase it. You only have proven that this reporter thing might not be for you or maybe you need more practice not sure which because as stated reporters dont become the story they write about. They should be objective and factual non emotional…. non of these things I have read in your opinion pages. At the end of the day your online “reporting” is probably better left to the professional.
    Thanks

    Saturday, 20 January 2018, 3:44 pm
      • Pray tell how did I violate your policy. I didn’t read anything of hurting your feelings that might kick a comment??

        Saturday, 20 January 2018, 4:46 pm
    • IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE NEWS HERE GO SOMEPLACE ELSE.

      Sunday, 21 January 2018, 6:21 pm
      • Your using the term “news” very loosely I would say, as opinion and “news” are definitely two different things. What is written here defines opinion pages not so much factual but emotional.

        Now that is just non emotional facts right there and if you remove emotion that is how news should be written.

        Sunday, 21 January 2018, 7:36 pm
          • How do you know that the PIO is the correct target of your wrath? It almost sounds to me like they earn every cent having to be the middleman between rabid reporters and their boss.

            Sunday, 28 January 2018, 8:28 pm
  • The department is loaded with issues. If you think Denise is overpaid then so be it. She had nothing to do the the actions of her ex-husband, That was the result on the staff ignoring information and complaints from their subordinates. No one was surprised by that episode except of course the command staff.

    Saturday, 20 January 2018, 2:27 pm
  • Tom, you’re a smart guy, but even smart people get blinders.

    The bizarre thing is your obsession with the dawn center. They’re stealing tampons and homeless people are on drugs, wow. So the sheriff, who might attend a quarterly meeting is corrupt?

    This article isn’t likely to help either.

    You basically alienated the most popular political figure in a small town for nothing substantial.

    My advice would be a huge apology for letting your biases impact your reporting.

    Just my opinion.

    Saturday, 20 January 2018, 10:34 am
      • I didn’t mean to insult you, we all have blind spots. That’s all.

        Saturday, 20 January 2018, 12:27 pm
          • Just want you to stay aground

            Saturday, 20 January 2018, 1:44 pm
  • Hey, guess what…………….this is all pretty tiresome at this point. So you pissed off the sheriff? Who cares? There is so much juvenile crap in the news these days (politics). Both sides need to grow up.

    Saturday, 20 January 2018, 9:57 am
  • Tom, I can see where your questions/stories would be irritating or embarrassing…regardless, it is your job to be the one that bears the brunt of the assault so that we may be informed. Your questions keep agencies/people honest and we, as citizens, have the right to know…the good & the bad.

    Sheriff and other officials: Please note that we demand transparency. If you are doing your job professionally and appropriately, you should have no problem cooperating with anyone who asks for the information-annoying reporters included.

    While we can ignore some bad judgments by your office, when you choose to hide or become uncooperative-we then start to wonder what you are concealing…

    Knowing that Tom is a reporter for the local community (and not backed or financially supported by a large media conglomerate) and then charging/over-charging him for things that other media is not or just doing so out of spite, well, that I would find unconscionable. Just give the facts and let them speak for themselves.

    Seeing the lies, hyperbole, journalists editorializing and becoming mouth-pieces for political agendas, and fake news that has proliferated our news this past year-I take everything reported with a grain of salt. No longer is any story blindly believed. Until a story is proven and verified with facts, by multiple news sources, including those with opposing agendas, I withhold opinion. This goes for RNRF. But, withholding, not commenting, not being completely transparent-warts and all-makes it appear that shady things are being done & covered up.

    I am a staunch supporter of law enforcement. I have deep appreciation and gratitude for all that you do. I do not know Tom or anyone who works with him. The only connection that I have, is that I am a Hernando County citizen who reads his stories for information that affects my community. I don’t agree with his opinion or style on a number of issues. If anything, my allegiances would lie with law enforcement more than him, but, in this case, you are wrong. Cooperate, give him the information he asks for freely, don’t target him. If he ever gets it wrong, misstates things, etc. then call him out for it. Let us know your side. Let us decide.

    Saturday, 20 January 2018, 9:34 am
  • Looks like both these “Ladies,” And I use that term loosely, have been promoted WAY BEYOND their intelligence level.

    Saturday, 20 January 2018, 7:36 am
  • My God!! There is way to much political corrupt crap going on in this county….land that the county owned that now sits and. rots, if you took some of the unreasonable amount of money being paid out to county officers, they could put county homelessness out of business… but hum that seems way to easy. Hernando county is a joke it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out ..SMH

    Saturday, 20 January 2018, 6:17 am
  • As stated before, the FDLE needs to investigate the sheriffs office. I know other women who are scared at the thought of having to call the sheriffs office for anything, the sheriff has destroyed the credibility of this office. The pay for this pio is obscene and Al fights for more money. Get off you ass’s readers of rnrf and start a campaign to clean house.

    Saturday, 20 January 2018, 4:52 am
  • This, he leaves up. Say anything critical about RNRF and it’s removed in seconds. THIS is OK to Tom.

    Friday, 19 January 2018, 11:36 pm
  • Simple run the sheriff and the corrupt department out of town, let the state patrol take over or increase the local departments.

    Friday, 19 January 2018, 9:54 pm
  • What about her daughter being the assistant to Blaise Ingoglia? Hmmmm just one more reason she is shady…. time to go!

    Friday, 19 January 2018, 9:51 pm
    • The apple don’t fall far from the tree!!
      Like mother like daughter!!!

      Friday, 19 January 2018, 11:05 pm
    • I don’t see how that is of any relevance except that Blaise is a d-bag.

      Sunday, 28 January 2018, 8:38 pm
  • Oh my!!!

    Friday, 19 January 2018, 9:45 pm
  • We now live in a time where any politician feels free to claim any fact based news they dislike to be “fake news”. In days past, journalists would not stand for that. They would band together as a professional community to push back. Today, with the blending of news reporting and editorializing, you get journalists who join those politicians and accuse their competitors of fake news. Sad state we are in now. Since it seems to work to get them elected, I do not see it changing anytime soon.

    Friday, 19 January 2018, 9:43 pm
  • Tom, when is the Sheriff up for re-election ?

    I think him and his team have a tough job and I for one greatly appreciate and support what they do for the citizens of Hernando County but there certainly needs to be a high degree of transparency from the top down, which a lot of people I talk to (aka voters around town) don’t believe exists unless your in his inner circle and that’s a problem.

    Tom, Keep up the good work and keep jumping those obstacles they put in your way, one day it will all change for the better and you’ll be proud that you had a hand in cleaning that up. Keep up the good work, the voters are watching and reading, I’m looking forward to receiving my first Monthly News Letter.-Thanks

    Friday, 19 January 2018, 9:19 pm
  • I wonder what would happen if regular citizens request this same information that Tom is requesting. Will we get answers or just the same BS that they are giving Tom

    Friday, 19 January 2018, 9:00 pm
      • LOL. Pasco is professional? PSO is a joke. They had to remove their “reviews” section on facebook because they had a 1/5 stars. Atleast HCSO is 4.5/5 with 1k+ reviews.

        Friday, 19 January 2018, 9:46 pm
        • you must be one of news little bitchs

          Friday, 19 January 2018, 11:41 pm
        • HCSO, a 4.5/5 stars?? Well that would ONLY be the employees giving it that rating, and NOT the general public that’s for sure…

          Saturday, 27 January 2018, 8:50 pm
  • IT should be noted that Denise Maloney’s now ex husband was Bill Martinez who was fired from HCSO for inappropriate sexual contact with a young girl he was taking home from a car accident.

    Friday, 19 January 2018, 7:21 pm
    • Bill Martinez has nothing to do with what is going on here, so your comment was not necessary. She is a trouble maker from way back when!!!!!

      Friday, 19 January 2018, 9:46 pm
    • Why on earth is that worth noting?

      Friday, 19 January 2018, 9:46 pm
    • This is probably her just trying to bring her irrelevant ex back in the news. This doesn’t change what she’s doing it’s smoke and mirrors. And he’s her EX! Maybe because he liked younger women while she liked having more fire hoses ran through her than all
      The Hernando fire engines combined… who knows and who cares.

      Friday, 19 January 2018, 10:25 pm
      • Why mention Bill Martinez? He was fired for his conduct. He wasn’t married to her at the time was he? Maybe she should be fired for her not doing her job. Do your job and give out information to Tom. Or is there something to hide?

        Saturday, 20 January 2018, 1:18 pm
  • This is becoming a pissing contest on all fronts but what is truly ‘wreckless’ (sic) is the widespread nepotism in this county. It’s shameful. It’s an open secret. None hired into the cushy positions created by their buddies are qualified, nor do they take great risks or work extremely hard compared to the water carriers. Lazy corrupt and backward hillbillies,they make outsiders with experience and brainpower take up the slack. It’s called mental parasitism. When/if things go sideways, the outsiders are the first to go. And the best they can do when confronted with these truths are…’Don’t like it,leave. Or…Love New York? Take I 95 North…etc…ad nausaeum.
    Brainy bunch here!

    Friday, 19 January 2018, 7:21 pm
  • So glad I live on the Pasco side of County Line, with Chris Nocco as our sheriff. He is great. And, he will talk to citizens, as well. I know that personally.

    Friday, 19 January 2018, 7:15 pm
    • PSO was forced to remove it’s “reviews” section on facebook because it had 1/5 stars with multiple thousands of reviews. HCSO has 4.5/5 with 1k+ reviews.

      Friday, 19 January 2018, 9:48 pm
      • That is because PCSO tells it like it is. They have become one of the best departments in the state. Meanwhile HCSO has been in a free fall for about 8 years.

        Saturday, 20 January 2018, 2:19 pm
        • LOL how is HCSO in free fall? It is completely underfunded yet has 4.5/5 stars on facebook. Sounds like a deputy must’ve hooked up with your wife or something.

          Sunday, 21 January 2018, 2:35 pm
  • Karen Jordon does a great job.

    Friday, 19 January 2018, 7:08 pm
    • Susan= GREAT JOB AT WHAT EXACTLY?

      Friday, 19 January 2018, 10:04 pm
    • She dose a great job at helping the rest protect the worst sex offender of women in the country.

      Saturday, 20 January 2018, 11:13 am

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