ORLANDO, Fla. -- One of Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings top aides has been disciplined for "conduct unbecoming" stemming from an incident during Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Orlando last year.
Besides trying to get his picture taken with Biden, Maj. Danny Vereen broke so many security rules an unidentified Secret Service agent was told to put Vereen on the ground if he refused to follow orders, an internal affairs investigation found.
"Next time, just take 'em down," the agent said during the Florida Democratic Convention 2011 held Oct. 28 at the Walt Disney World Contemporary Resort. "Who the hell does he think he is?"
A disciplinary report released this week shows Vereen failed to attend meetings preparing for Biden's visit despite being assigned to coordinate security for the vice president's arrival at Orlando International Airport and a motorcade across the county.
"I kind of inherited it without any real direction...knowledge or training," the $102,000-a-year administrator told an internal affairs investigator. Vereen, 52, was cited by the sheriff's office for unbecoming conduct, unsatisfactory performance and suspended for 40 hours. He did not respond to request for comment made to the sheriff's office.
Instead of remaining at an undisclosed command post near the airport for the vice-president's visit, Vereen rode in the motorcade's lead vehicle and approached Biden at the first stop without permission, the investigation found.
"That's like a no-fly zone, Nobody does that," U.S. Secret Service Agent Jim Glendenny told sheriff's Chief Deputy Ken Cox, according to the report. "He just kind of stormed, like kind of between them."
When the motorcade reached the Disney resort, Vereen became upset when he could not find the political convention's command post because he hadn't attended the security briefings, according to the internal affairs report.
He insisted on entering an area closed off by the Secret Service and twice brushed by agents trying to stop him from entering and leaving a hallway leading to the "green room" where Biden was waiting before addressing the crowd.
"That's my command post. I need to go down there," Vereen was quoted as telling a Secret Service agent. "I'm the highest ranking member. It's my command post."
The head of Biden's Secret Service team became so upset he entered the command post bellowing, "I thought I made it clear no one is supposed to leave this room, (expletive)! This is ridiculous!" according to documents from the investigation.
The Secret Service declined to comment Thursday, saying what happened was an internal sheriff's matter.
Vereen continues to serve as head of the sheriff's Special Operations division. It is not yet decided who will be responsible for security during campaign visits this fall to Central Florida by President Barack Obama and Biden, sheriff's spokesman Capt. Angelo Nieves said.
In every case, local law enforcement is supposed to assist the Secret Service in a subordinate role.
"Secret Service agents ... pretty much made it obvious that we made fools of ourselves," said sheriff's Capt. Al Rodrigues, who was assigned to coordinate security for the state Democratic convention despite Vereen's claim of being in charge, according to the investigation.
Criticism did not appear to concern Vereen, who challenged the disciplinary action and blamed some of his behavior on the Secret Service.
"These young agents are out of control," Vereen told an investigator. "I'm 52 years old and I'm not gonna sit here and get into it with no 28-year-old."
Relatively new to the sheriff's office, Vereen was hired in 2009 after Demings was elected sheriff.
A former Orlando police officer, Vereen was fired in 1993 after pleading no contest to aggravated battery for punching and breaking a fellow officer's jaw during an off-duty basketball game. He subsequently withdrew his plea, went to trial and was rehired in 1995 after being acquitted. He retired from OPD in 2004 and served as Eatonville police chief until mid-2007.
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