« Business group urges Floridians to say 'No thanks' to Medicaid expansion | Main | Norman Braman on Miami Dolphins' latest stadium offer: "It's playing with the numbers" »

Trooper fired after I-10 traffic stop involving state lawmaker

A state trooper who said he was "trying to be nice" stopped a state legislator for speeding. But instead of writing Rep. Charles McBurney a $250 speeding ticket, the trooper offered him a much less expensive alternative: a $10 fine for not having proof of insurance.

McBurney said he was not speeding and that he did have proof of insurance, which Trooper Charles Swindle didnt request. Outraged by the trooper's conduct, the lawmaker promptly complained to Col. David Brierton, the head of the Florida Highway Patrol, and last week the FHP fired Swindle for violating department rules.

Swindle is appealing the firing, claiming the patrol has a long-running "quid pro quo" policy of not issuing traffic tickets to legislators. Swindle's lawyer, Sidney Matthew of Tallahassee, argues in a legal challenge of the trooper's firing that before offering McBurney the cheaper option of a $10 fine, he notified his superior, Sgt. Gary Dawson, who OK'd the action.

"This stinks," Matthew said. "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."

"That's 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 we give anybody a free pass because they're elected officials." The agency is compiling records to show that nearly a dozen state lawmakers have been cited for speeding or other moving violations in recent months.

The McBurney incident happened on the morning of last Nov. 19 as he and his wife Deborah were driving from Jacksonville to Tallahassee for the one-day organizational session of the Legislature. McBurney, a former assistant state attorney, was driving a black Toyota with a distinctive state legislator specialty license plate when he was pulled over in Madison.

"I didn’t think that what he did was proper," McBurney said. "I didn’t think that was the way he should have acted towards me, or anyone else for that matter. I felt obligated to write the letter. My concern was, if he did that to me, he would do that to anybody."

-- Steve Bousquet

 

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Loser of the Week : Charles McBurney

So Charles McBurney thinks the FHP Trooper was abusing his authority and instead uses his own power to call the head of FHP Col. Brieton. Regular citizens don't get to call the head of FHP.

No More Rick Scott

Rick Scott tried to disband FHP but Sheriffs put a stop to his reckless culture of governing.

Randy Scott

The worst member of the Administration--by far---is Julie Jones. She is a biologist by training and is simply not qualified to lead men and women who put their life on the line every day. She has implemented policies which have devastated the moral of everyone in FHP and DHSMV. Can we please get a REAL law enforcement officer to lead the agency?

Florida

Randy, if we have a governor whose company was raided by the FBI in the biggest Medicaid fraud case in history calling the shots on Medicaid, i'm not surprised Julie Jones is in charge of DHSMV.

whasup

Of course FHP has no policy of granting breaks to legislators. It's an informal general practice that is best demonstrated by the exceptions when lawmakers have gotten speeding tickets (the cases Jones will produce).

And I'll bet you that most of those who got them knew they were speeding and got caught and insisted on getting a ticket so the agency wouldn't have them in a compromising political position, having gotten them to accept a special favor.

Now shouldn't somebody in the press ask why this happened with McBurney who is head of the Justice Appropriations subcommittee in the House. I realize FHP's budget is controlled by another money subcommittee over transportation, but McBurney is in a prime position to help or hurt most law enforcement officers in the state.

One should wonder whether the cop's various union boys were attempting to compromise a key money committee legislator.

Millon

Senator McBurney's actions are disgraceful. Oh sure. He wasn't speeding...sure! That's a joke. I've been stopped for speeding over my lifetime and every single time, I was speeding. Not only that, to get stopped today by FHP, you need to be going at least 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. EVERYONE KNOWS THAT.

To call and get someone fired, even after they let you off is just unbecoming of a decent person. This officer has to feed his family. Instead, he's out there fighting to get his job back. This Senator is dirt in my book.

Unsurprised Worker

Did the Legislator violate...probably. However, when you take away a law enforcement officers ability to utilize some discretion, you tie his hands. He probably thought he was educating this elected official who disapproved and got him some payback by overstepping his own authority. What did this accomplish? Very little positive!!!

Paul Henry

I say we place automated for-profit cameras on I-10 and only ticket vehicles with state legislator plates on them. Plenty of money to be made from the looks of things.

Based on the facts presented, the trooper got a raw deal. The punishment over one incident does not fit the claimed offense. The Tampa Times version of this story says the same trooper stopped another legislator the same day for the same offense and took similar action. Why then didn't that legislator complain? If we were to sanction every trooper that gave someone a break at roadside, there would be no FHP troopers.

Prediction: This situation will squander more of our tax dollars and the trooper will get his job back, along with back pay with interest.

Jay Hudson

Firing the FHP Office is indicative of how our Government currently sees itself, above the law. We live in a society were power and money are far more important than law and order. It is unfortunate that the officer was fired, instead of the Representative. None of us are above the law, our forefathers actually believed that we are all created equal, unfortunately, they never realized how easily an elected official could be bought with money and power.

pmath

I will believe the FHP Officer over a legislator EVERY SINGLE TIME.

DFrank

I cannot believe someone lost his job over this. This legislator should be unelected. What an arrogant jerk.

george

Rep. Charles McBurney is also a Republican which the story fails to mention and the main reason the State of Florida is in such a mess.

jmichael

All animals are equal. Some animals are "more" equal than others. $10 dollars more.

Richard Thomas

There needs to be an investigation now by an independent prosecutor. Corruption needs to be investigated seriously. This is not time for funny remarks. Do not cover this up.

Danny Wolfe

Should have been a thank you,handshake,have a good day and becareful from him instead of filing a complaint

Jacked Up

Sounds like this constitutes Conduct Unbecoming a Public Official against Rep. Charles McBurney.

The comments to this entry are closed.