Strangely enough, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper has been fired for a speeding ticket he didn’t write.
Roughly two weeks ago, Florida Highway Patrol trooper Charles Swindle was fired for “conduct unbecoming of a public employee” after he offered a state lawmaker, Rep. Charles McBurney (R-Jacksonville), a warning for doing 87 mph in a 70 mph zone. The incident reportedly occurred in November.
Swindle first checked with his sergeant and then told McBurney: “I’m cutting you a break.” The trooper cited the lawmaker for lacking proof of insurance — a $10 ticket opposed to a $280 fine for speeding.
Florida state investigators say Swindle did the same for another lawmaker the same day. Further, McBurney, the lawmaker who got out of a ticket, was apparently upset about getting off with a warning and wrote a letter demanding an investigation. The letter led to Swindle’s firing.
“I am concerned that as Trooper Swindle acted in such fashion to me, that he would do so to any law-abiding citizen of our state,” McBurney wrote.
Swindle’s termination letter said he engaged in conduct unbecoming a public employee, and he falsely accused motorists of offenses they did not commit, according to the Miami Herald.
“You displayed poor judgment and circumvented the legal process,” the letter added.
Swindle’s attorney, Sidney Matthew, claims McBurney’s special treatment is just standard procedure for the agency. However, the claim has been roundly denied.
From the Miami Herald:
The lawyer alleged the patrol has an unwritten “quid pro quo” policy of not ticketing politicians, and that young recruits are taught in a state-run academy: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” Around half of the state’s 160 lawmakers opt for legislator license plates, the state says.
“This stinks,” Matthew said. “The FHP can’t have it both ways, with a policy of discretion to cut breaks to legislators who are speeding and then turn around and fire them.”
“Horse hockey,” said Julie Jones, executive director of the patrol’s parent agency, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. “There is no policy that says that we give anybody a free pass because they’re an elected official.”
Former Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami, said troopers ticketed him several times during his eight years in the House.
“If there was any preferential treatment, I certainly did not receive it,” Planas said in an email. “In fact, I don’t think that FHP liked the Legislature very much because the guy took pleasure in giving me a ticket.”
On the same day that Swindle pulled over McBurney, he also reportedly pulled over new Florida state Rep. Mike Clelland (D-Lake Mary), also fo going 87 mph in a 70 mph zone. Swindle let Clelland off with two citations for no proof of insurance and no car registration after noticing a firefighter sticker on his car.
He said he was cutting Clelland a break, “from one firefighter to another.”
“I didn’t ask him to give me any break,” Clelland said. “I remember him saying, ‘You’re the second legislator I’ve pulled over today.’”
(H/T: Yahoo! News)