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Culbreath's Campaign Highlights Law Enforcement Background, But Omits History of Disciplinary Actions

MCSO record littered with misconduct


BRADENTON — The race for Manatee County Commission District 3 is heating up. With the primary election in less than 60 days, voters continue to learn more about the candidates. Two Republican primary candidates will face off in August, April Culbreath and Tal Siddique, and there is one Democrat candidate to challenge the Republican primary winner.

The District 3 Commission race recently saw a significant shift when incumbent Kevin Van Ostenbridge swapped places with candidate April Culbreath, who had previously filed to run in District 7 against commissioner incumbent George Kruse. 

With Van Ostenbridge opting to run for re-election but to a different seat than he had represented during his first term, Culbreath will now face Siddique in the August primary.

Tal Siddique had already begun working the campaign trail before the swap between Van Ostenbridge and Culbreath. His campaign had been door-knocking, had collected the necessary candidate petitions, and signs promoting his candidacy were already posted in yards within the district.

Siddique was also a recent guest on TBT’s Podcast highlighting local candidates who will appear on the August primary ballot as part of our 2024 Local Election coverage. TBT extended the same invitation to Culbreath but has not yet received a response. 

Though Culbreath only entered the District 3 race just four weeks ago, her campaign has made quick work of flooding local mailboxes with large glossy postcards. In the last two weeks alone, Republican voters in District 3 have received four such mail pieces.

There are also “palm card” and “door hanger” advertisements paid for by the Culbreath campaign.

Culbreath's campaign advertisements tout her as a "Conservative Cop" and "Christian" who keeps President Joe Biden sleeping with his lights on. The mailers also state that she is a "Republican Party Leader" and an "America First" candidate who "strikes fear in the hearts of liberals," among other claims. 

Last week, The Anna Maria Island Sun reported on the District 3 Republican primary race. In its coverage, The Sun summarized the contents of a 12-page Professional Standard Employee Resume obtained from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. The document includes a timeline of complaints and disciplinary actions taken against Culbreath during her time as a deputy with MCSO.

TBT has also obtained public records related to Culbreath’s time at MCSO. Based on the records we reviewed, from 1997 to 2016, there were at least 31 complaints regarding allegations of inappropriate, unbecoming, and/or unprofessional behavior.

While more than half of the recorded complaints and internal investigations resulted in a finding of “unfounded” or “unsustained,” and three exonerating Culbreath of the accusations against her, 12 of the complaints were “sustained” and resulted in disciplinary actions against Culbreath.

Records show that Culbreath's incidents of misconduct resulted in verbal counseling or letters of reprimand, and in five separate incidents, Culbreath was suspended without pay.

In total, between 2005 and 2011, Culbreath was suspended for a total of 885.8 hours without pay. When calculated by an eight-hour work shift, Culbreath served approximately 110 work days on administrative suspension without pay—or roughly half a work year out of six years, if based on 40 hours per week.

The sustained allegations and incidents which resulted in discipline include the following:

In 1999, Culbreath received verbal counseling for an incident described as going to a call without being dispatched or notifying dispatch and gathering information not on MCSO forms.

In 2000, she received a letter of reprimand for failing to preserve evidence.

In 2001, she received another letter of reprimand for “refusing proper order and/or comply with orders” and for “failing to be familiar/adhere to general orders.” The records describe this incident as Culbreath having driven an MCSO vehicle out of county to her residence without permission.

Just months later, in 2001, Culbreath received another letter of reprimand after an investigation into a complaint lodged against her sustained a violation of “failing to be familiar with/adhere to Florida State Statutes and Ordinances.” The incident summary provided that the complainant “alleges (Culbreath) grabbed (physically) ticket book out of his hands and harassed him.”

In 2004, she received yet another letter of reprimand after it was sustained that she had “failed to perform duties as prescribed.” In this incident, Culbreath failed to properly secure her service-issued firearm, which fell out of her holster and was discovered on the ground.

In 2005, Culbreath was suspended for 86 hours without pay after an investigation confirmed she had refused to comply with orders. In the written complaint, her supervisor described having instructed Deputy Culbreath—whose legal last name was Dugan at the time—to report to the scene of a burglary to conduct an investigation. However, the supervisor reported that the following day, he learned that Culbreath had never responded as instructed. 

Also in 2005, roughly eight months later, Culbreath was disciplined again, this time receiving 387 hours of suspension without pay. In this incident, Culbreath was witnessed “dancing suggestively while in uniform” at a wedding reception. The written complaint of the incident described Culbreath (then Dugan) dancing with a fellow off-duty deputy.

In Nov. 2005, an investigation was opened into a complaint that Culbreath had engaged in sex with a fellow officer both while on and off duty. The officer alleged to have participated in the inappropriate acts with Culbreath was the same officer that months prior Culbreath was disciplined for dancing suggestively with at the wedding reception. When the investigation concluded several months later in February 2006, the allegations were sustained, and Culbreath was suspended for 129 hours without pay. The other officer was also suspended.

In 2009, Culbreath received another administrative suspension without pay. This time she was suspended for 17.2 hours for disrespecting her supervisor. According to the written complaint prepared by her supervisor, Culbreath became disgruntled when she was ordered to respond to All Children’s Hospital for a reported 4-month-old infant experiencing brain swelling.

According to the supervisor’s account of the incident, Culbreath believed a different officer should have been given the assignment. Upon meeting with the supervisor’s office about the matter, she began using profanities toward her superior.

“Why the f*** isn't Patterson going?” Culbreath reportedly demanded of her supervisor.

When the supervisor confirmed the assignment to Culbreath, she allegedly told her supervisor, “This is bull****, this is such ****shit.”

The supervisor reported other officers witnessed the exchange, and upon excusing the officers from the area, Culbreath proceeded to yell at the supervisor. The supervisor’s complaint concluded, “It needs to be noted that Culbreath’s (Dugan's) attitude and disrespect for my authority has been an ongoing issue… although this incident was the worst.”

In 2010, Culbreath again was suspended without pay. This suspension was the result of an incident in which she was found to have failed to respond to a missing child call as directed by her supervisor. The associated written report alleged that Culbreath (then Dugan) was visiting another officer and had gone out to lunch instead of responding to the missing child incident as instructed.

According to the report, her supervisor had to explain that the behavior was unacceptable, particularly in light of Culbreath having only recently completed a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).

“The reason for the PIP,” wrote the supervisor, “was because of her lack of respect for authority, and higher caseload and time management problems.”

For this incident, Culbreath received 8.6 hours of suspension without pay.

In 2011, Culbreath received disciplinary action following an alleged altercation regarding medical records.

The written report which detailed the allegations against Culbreath described that while off-duty, Culbreath (then Dugan) went to a cosmetic surgery center in Tampa to obtain her medical records. When told she would need to pay a fee, Culbreath reportedly took the records and walked out of the office. An employee of the surgery center confronted Culbreath in the parking lot in an attempt to stop the theft, and a struggle reportedly ensued.

According to the record, Culbreath allegedly identified herself as a law enforcement officer and punched the surgery center employee in the face. Though officers from the Tampa Police Department responded to the scene, no charges were filed after the surgery center employee signed a complaint withdrawal form.

Even though no criminal action resulted from the incident, an internal investigation by MCSO resulted in the allegations being sustained, and Culbreath was placed on 258 hours of unpaid suspension. 

In 2015, a randomized statewide audit conducted by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles found that Culbreath had misused the Driver And Vehicle Information Database (DAVID) on multiple occasions by accessing the Emergency Contact Information (EIC) of certain individuals. The written complaint concluded, “After a fact-finding investigation by Professional Standards Investigators, it was discovered the MCSO employee access of ECI was unauthorized and does not conform with state statute.”

Although the above disciplinary actions were all that were detailed in the MCSO records reviewed by TBT, an internet search of Culbreath’s former name “April Dugan” revealed that in 2010 the Bradenton Herald reported on another incident of inappropriate sexual behavior at the MCSO between employees.

In this reported incident, a female captain within the Child Protective Investigative Division was reassigned after admitting to internal investigators that she had an intimate encounter with Culbreath. There is no mention of disciplinary action against Culbreath for the incident. Likewise, the MCSO records reviewed by TBT contained no documentation of Culbreath being disciplined for the incident.

Records show that the multiple unsustained or unfounded complaints against Culbreath included allegations of rudeness, driving while intoxicated, harassment, excessive force, and unprofessionalism.

Information available on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) website detailing the Professional Disciplinary Process appears to show that many—if not all—of the complaints and investigations regarding Culbreath that resulted in a finding of “sustained” should have been reported to FDLE.

From the FDLE website concerning local agency investigations and reporting, “If an internal investigation sustains the allegation, then the agency shall submit the investigative findings and all supporting documentation to the Commission through the Commission’s staff at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.”

Additional information, as provided on the FDLE website, outlines penalties to be imposed for sustained violations. The long list includes some of the violations Culbreath was suspended for, such as “engaging in sex while on duty, or at any time the officer is acting under the color of authority as a Commission-certified officer.” The recommended penalty range for this offense is suspension to revocation of certification.

Despite her lengthy disciplinary history, Culbreath continued as an officer of MCSO until her retirement in Oct. 2023.

TBT submitted a public record request to MCSO on June 18 to confirm whether there may have been additional complaints, investigations, or disciplinary actions recorded during Culbreath’s time with the office. We have not received any records responsive to our request as of our reporting deadline.

Though she retired from MCSO in 2023, Culbreath appears to still volunteer in some capacity with the department.

On March 1, 2024, the official Facebook page of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office shared a post with photos from a junior deputy event held at a local preschool. Photos shared on MCSO’s Facebook post show Culbreath, in uniform, participating in the event.

In the weeks following MCSO sharing the photos to Facebook, Culbreath began using at least one of the photos from the preschool event in her campaign materials and on a website associated with her campaign. Like her other campaign materials, these campaign advertisements also highlighted her work as a deputy. 

In addition to her candidacy, Culbreath currently serves as chairperson of the Manatee County Republican Executive Committee (REC). As the local party leader, Culbreath has faced strife among fellow local Republicans and committee members. 

In March, REC members held a vote of no confidence against Chair Culbreath, but Culbreath dismissed the action as invalid.  More recently, in May, an REC member filed a civil suit against Culbreath seeking an emergency injunction to prevent Culbreath's removal of any REC members without due process.  The lengthy civil complaint entered in the case alleges multiple points of grievance and concern with Culbreath's leadership of the local REC.  The civil case is ongoing. 

As a candidate, Culbreath's resume may continue to dog her campaign and raise questions about her qualifications to serve as an elected official. Regardless of the scrutiny the candidate is likely to continue to face, Culbreath's campaign may have at least one political asset that leans in her favor—being a part of the (so far) "winning team." 

Culbreath appointed Wendy White as her campaign treasurer. According to the
filing, White’s address is reported as 1509 East 9th Ave, Tampa. This address is also the physical address of SIMWINS, a political consulting firm located in Tampa and founded by political consultant Anthony Pedicini.

Pedicini's reputation as a political operative and consultant has largely been formed by "winning" strategies many critics refer to as "dirty" or dishonest. His local clients are also known to amass campaign donations that far exceed their competitors, largely due to contributions from individuals and businesses with ties to the development industry. 

Pedicini's local clients are also known to reap the benefit of dark money PACs that inundate voters with misleading and/or deceptive mail and text messages attacking his client's opposition—even same-party opposition. 

Local county commission candidates who secured campaign victories in the 2020 and 2022 elections were all clients of Pedicini, including Kevin Van Ostenbridge, Amanda Ballard, Mike Rahn, Jason Bearden, Vanessa Baugh, and George Kruse.

Kruse is the only incumbent candidate who is no longer a client of Pedicini or SIMWINS. 

Like Culbreath, county commission candidates Ray Turner and Steve Metallo, school board candidates Alex Garner and Jonathan Lynch, and Supervisor of Elections candidate James Satcher have all also appointed White as their campaign treasurer.

Culbreath and SOE candidate Satcher share more connections than just having the same campaign treasurer and political consultant. Public records show that Culbreath is the likely vice president of Satcher’s wife’s (Monica Satcher) non-profit, Acts of Love Ministries INC.

SunBiz records associated with the non-profit show that in 2021, following a public controversy related to Acts of Love Ministries and an alleged stolen photo, James Satcher—who was a commissioner at the time—stepped down as the president of the nonprofit.

In Satcher’s place, wife Monica was designated president, and a new board member, “April Culbreth,” joined the non-profit's board. The most recent annual report filed in 2024 lists "April Culbreth" as the organization’s current vice president, second to Monica Satcher.

TBT attempted to reach Monica Satcher by phone to confirm that candidate Culbreath is the vice president of her non-profit, but our voicemail was not returned. All evidence available strongly suggests the difference between "Culbreth" and "Culbreath" is merely a spelling error on the non-profit's filing reports. 

With Florida being a closed-primary state and two Republicans and one Democrat qualified for the District 3 race, on August 20, only the registered Republicans of District 3 will get to decide whether to move forward to the November election with Culbreath or her Republican opponent, Tal Siddique.

Whichever Republican candidate prevails in the primary election, that candidate will compete against Democrat Diana Shoemaker for the privilege of representing Manatee County’s District 3 Commission seat for the next four years.

TBT made multiple attempts over several days to reach Culbreath by phone and email for comment on this story, but they were unanswered.

Dawn Kitterman is a staff reporter and investigative journalist for The Bradenton Times covering local government news. She can be reached at dawn.kitterman@thebradentontimes.com


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  • tjet62

    April is evil.

    Saturday, June 22 Report this

  • sandy

    How can anybody in their right mind think Culbreath is a good candidate for county commission. Her record over the years shows she not a person I would want on the commission. When KVO first ran, nobody knew what he was truly like. Culbreath has already shown over the years to be a despicable person, not to be trusted to do what is best for the citizens of the county.

    Sunday, June 23 Report this

  • NikkiforPalmetto

    I sure hope she got permission from those kids' parents to use them as political pawns. I guess they're useful except for when they went missing or were abused during her time as a deputy.

    She could "back the blue" by not dragging them into her campaign and associating herself with their profession.

    Sunday, June 23 Report this

  • EPG2002

    I like how she claims to be all Christian, then she behaves like the nastiest pile of poo. Pretty typical these days.

    Sunday, June 23 Report this

  • jimandlope

    This candidate would seem to fit in perfectly with the other commissioners who exhibit similar behavior! And… the beat goes on. Jim Tierney

    Sunday, June 23 Report this

  • bgsu6

    In total, between 2005 and 2011, Culbreath was suspended for a total of 885.8 hours without pay. When calculated by an eight-hour work shift, Culbreath served approximately 110 work days on administrative suspension without pay—or roughly half a work year out of six years, if based on 40 hours per week.

    Is the MCSO really this hard up to find good employees? How was she never terminated for some of the things she did?

    Sunday, June 23 Report this

  • David Daniels

    Only in law enforcement, which has one of the most powerful unions in the US, would she have kept her job. I can just imagine the union steward having to hold his/her nose and defend her 31 times. And don't forget, these are just the 31 formal complaints. Union contracts require formal "progressive steps" of discipline. There is a formal coaching, then a formal verbal warning, then a formal written warning.... As a union employee myself, I loathe this kind of employee that takes advantage of the hard fought-for gains of generations and in return, drags down the reputation of the entire union workforce.

    Sunday, June 23 Report this

  • ruthlawler

    I can not imagine WHY the Manatee County Sheriff's office kept her as as deputy with so many complaints and suspensions. As I was fortunate to attend the 10 week Manatee County Sheriff Office Citizen's Academy last year, I was overall quite impressed by the ethics, training and checks and balances within the organization. I also was surprised learn to that MCSO was NOT unionized. This was explained to us in the class that the MCSO could therefore maintain a high standard of conduct without bad actors being protected. That obviously was NOT the case with April Culbreath. Ruth Lawler

    Sunday, June 23 Report this

  • mp1616


    Sunday, June 23 Report this

  • WTF

    Their are no words... or moral compass with this one....

    She is the Aconite flower of our society aka several highly toxic, poisonous compounds that can enter the body either through the mouth when swallowed or through the skin. Fresh aconite root (before being processed) poses the most risk for toxicity.

    Even Low doses of April only about two milligrams of pure aconite or one gram of the plant can be poisonous.

    Monday, June 24 Report this

  • Dianna

    Is this really the quality of people we hire at the Sheriff's Dept? She wasn't fit for that job and she certainly isn't fit for District 3 commissioner. I am sure she would fit the criteria of every commissioner except Kruse, but the citizens do not want another corrupt developer board.  NO THANK YOU APRIL!!

    Monday, June 24 Report this

  • Graciela0107

    Aren’t there enough unfit commissioners already? To add this woman to the BoCC would be utterly insane! It is obvious that she has an anger management problem and is just a nasty person. My big question is: why is it that the Sheriff’ s office never fired her?

    Tuesday, June 25 Report this