Florida highway safety chief Julie Jones says state troopers are encouraged to use "discretion" when they make traffic stops, but they are not allowed to issue tickets for non-existent violations.
Jones, who reports to Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet, spoke for the first time Tuesday in the case of Charles Swindle, a six-year Florida Highway Patrol veteran who was fired after he stopped two state legislators for speeding on I-10 in Madison last fall. In both cases, FHP superiors said Swindle violated agency rules by issuing citations to the lawmakers for violations that didn't exist: Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, was cited for having no proof of insurance, and Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, was cited for no proof of insurance and not having his registration.
Swindle said he was "cutting a break" to both politicians. McBurney complained to FHP Col. David Brierton, who ordered an investigation and fired Swindle, who appealed the dismissal to the Public Employees Relations Commission. Swindle's lawyer, Sidney Matthew, claims there is a "long-standing unwritten policy" at the FHP for troopers to go easy on speeding politicians.