Friday, March 02, 2007

Smelly Surprise

SANFORD -- New Seminole County Commissioner Mike McLean isn't ashamed of his request for $8,800 in new office furniture, but at least one constituent thinks the idea stinks.

McLean got a stinker of a package in the mail Monday: feces. Seminole County sheriff's investigators aren't yet sure if it came from someone or something.

"It came yesterday to his office," County Manager Cindy Coto said Tuesday. "His aide thought it looked suspicious and brought it to our office. She didn't open it."

The next step was to call the Sheriff's Office. It, in turn, called in the hazardous-materials team. By Tuesday, the offending contents had been tentatively identified.

Deputy County Manager Don Fisher, who ended up with the package for a time before sheriff's investigators took custody of it, said the sender had written comments on the white, letter-sized envelope. Those comments made clear the sender was not happy about the furniture purchase.

"I can't remember exactly what it said," Fisher said.

There was no return address.

U.S. Postal Service regulations prohibit sending feces through the mail except for medical or veterinary purposes, and in those instances the samples must meet rigorous packing and labeling requirements, said Gary Sawtelle, a Postal Service spokesman.

"In our regulations, it is considered potentially hazardous or infectious material," he said. "Those regulations are in place to protect our employees and others who may come in contact with it."

Without some implied or written threat, however, a poop-filled package won't get the sender in trouble on the first offense.

"If there is no other offense, a letter of violation is sent to the mailer warning them that a second offense gets turned over to the U.S. Attorney's Office," Sawtelle said.

McLean, who had requested the new furniture because he thinks the existing furniture looks dated, would not comment on the package. But he joked with fellow commissioners at a Tuesday meeting that sheriff's investigators would be checking its contents for fingerprints.

"I didn't know they could do that kind of thing," he said.

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