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Trooper, fired over stopping lawmakers, wins his job back

Former Florida Highway Patrol trooper Charles Swindle, who was fired in March over his handling of traffic stops involving two state legislators, officially won reinstatement to his job Friday. He's entitled to back pay, too, with interest, as a state board concluded that Swindle was following a tradition of cutting breaks for politicians who exceed the speed limit.

The Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) issued a final order upholding a hearing officer's conclusion that Swindle's firing was too harsh a penalty for his actions. Instead, Swindle got a three-week suspension and he can petition the FHP for back pay, which so far totals more than $12,000 before taxes.

"The agency is ordered to reinstate to his former position or a position having the same degree of responsibility as his former position," PERC's order said.

Swindle was fired over his conduct on I-10 in Madison one day last November, when, in rapid succession, he pulled over two House members who he said were speeding. But Reps. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, and Charles McBurney, got away with slaps on the wrist in the form of no proof of insurance and no proof of registration. The problem was, both lawmakers had the proof -- Swindle never requested to see it. McBurney wrote a letter to FHP Col. David Brierton complaining about Swindle's conduct, which launched an investigation that led to his dismissal.

"We recognize, as did the hearing officer, that the agency's longstanding unwritten policy of leniency toward legislators contributed to Swindle's actions showing leniency to McBurney and Clelland," PERC concluded. One of the three PERC commissioners who sided with Swindle, Mike Hogan of Jacksonville, is himself a former legislator.

The patrol now must re-hire a trooper it does not want, but the result is not a total disaster for the state: PERC denied Swindle's request that the state be forced to pay his attorney's fees.

-- Steve Bousquet


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It makes zero sense to both: a) give the trooper his job back, and b) make him pay his own attorney's fees. That sends a message to every state employee who does his job they way he's been trained and directed, who then is sacrificed as a scapegoat in a vain attempt to preserve an agency's image, that only the wealthy state employees should fight that unjust bureaucratic abuse.

tony smith

Agreed. He was wrongfully terminated. They should pay litigation costs.

Jeff Tuckner

Good result. Shame on Rep. Charles McBurney for doing everything he could to get this guy fired. What a jerk. But it's been fixed now.

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