Former Dade County, Ga., Sheriff Patrick Cannon made his first comments to the media Friday about his use of a county credit card to buy $3,644 in men's clothing for himself in October 2012 — after losing his bid for re-election in the August Republican primary.
"It's political propaganda to make me look bad," Cannon said. "The clothing ... was out of my uniform allowance that I was entitled to."
"They're trying to make a big issue that it was after the primary," he said, explaining he needed to dress for court appearances. "I was still obligated to do the job of sheriff until Dec. 31."
On Oct. 11, Cannon spent $2,758 at the Men's Wearhouse and $635 at J.C. Penney at Hamilton Place mall, records show. On Oct. 15, he spent $251 online at J.C. Penney's website.
Dade County Commission Chairman Ted Rumley said the expense jumped out at him when he saw the credit card statement.
Shortly afterward, Rumley called Cannon in for a meeting.
"We're a small county," Rumley said. "I sign every check. I look at every dollar."
Also at the meeting was County Commissioner Robert Goff.
"He sat in here and said [the credit card charges] were for suits and uniforms for his people," Goff said.
Rumley agreed that's what Cannon said then.
Told Friday that Cannon said he bought the clothing for himself, Rumley said, "That's the first time he's admitted it."
Goff and Rumley both said they worked well with Cannon and aren't trying to smear him.
"It was the timing of it, having lost the election," Goff said. "To have spent that much money."
"The commissioners know I was entitled to a uniform allowance," Cannon said Friday. "That's all I'm going to say at this time. This is not the end of the story."
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.