The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating a loss of funds from the American Legion Post 305 in St. Pete Beach. The investigation involves former St. Pete Beach mayor Mike Finnerty and his wife, Terri Finnerty. Terri Finnerty is currently St. Pete Beach City Commissioner for District 1.
According to a November 1 article published by the Tampa Bay Times, the amount being investigated is about $37,000. The investigation includes a “discrepancy” in the amount of money generated from two on-site pull-tab game machines registered on the machines versus what was deposited in the post’s account, as well as an $8,000 credit card bill. The $8,000 credit charge is under a formal forensic audit, according to the Times article. The Times article also states that ten other allegations were filed against Mike Finnerty and involve failure to follow post rules, but are not financially related, as reported in the article.
The Finnertys were barred from the post while awaiting a non-criminal “trial” conducted by the post, which took place November 7 at the American Legion at 699 Gulf Blvd.
The trial conducted by the American Legion yielded little results for the Finnertys or the post. According to the transcript obtained by the Gabber, the proceedings lasted for 51 minutes and only got as far as the jury selection. According to the post, a trial will take place on a later date to determine if the Finnertys will be removed from the post or be allowed to stay.
The Finnertys were both employed at the post, with Mike as the Commander and Terri as the lounge manager. As reported both by the Times and the Finnertys’ lawyer, Christopher Sierra, the allegations were brought against the Finnertys by Raymond Perez, the Legion’s 16th District Commander and post executive board member Thomas de Yampert.
“This guy decided to take to trial. He had no authority from the post to call a trial,” said Sierra in a phone interview Monday, November 27. Sierra also implied that de Yampert was motivated by his desire to be post commander, a position held by Mike Finnerty at the time.
During the trial, judge advocate Larry White asked de Yampert who appointed him to the role of prosecutor.
“Honestly, no one,” said de Yampert according to the transcript of the post’s trial on November 7. “I have not been appointed by anyone at this post… No one in the executive board has selected me. No one has done any of that.”
According to Sierra, the post broke multiple internal rules in regard to the Finnertys trial, including the removal of an officer (Mike Finnerty) without a trial, appointment of an interim commander, and barring post members from entering the trial.
In regard to the criminal aspects of the case, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Cpl. Dan DiFrancesco said the criminal investigation is still pending, and the investigator in charge of the case does not believe it will be concluded anytime soon.
When the Gabber reached out to Post 305 for comment, de Yampert said, “The post will not at this time or anytime have a comment on the Finnerty case.”