The fight goes on for Charles Swindle, the state trooper who was fired for "cutting breaks" to two legislators he said were speeding. He has gone to court seeking to overturn a state agency's finding that the Florida Highway Patrol had just cause to suspend him for his actions.
Swindle was fired last March and challenged the firing before the Public Employee Relations Commission, which overturned his dismissal in favor of a three-week suspension and ordered that he get several months back pay. PERC agreed with Swindle's contention that the FHP had a longstanding unwritten rule of leniency toward lead-footed politicians on Florida highways -- a claim that the state did not effectively refute during Swindle's PERC hearing last summer.
On Wednesday, Swindle filed an appeal with the First District Court of Appeal, seeking to erase the suspension entirely and "clear his name," attorney Sidney Matthew said. Matthew said PERC relied on the trooper's dashcam video to judge his actions, which the lawyer called "double hearsay" and "insufficient evidence as a matter of law to support PERC’s finding of just cause for FHP to discipline Swindle."
Swindle stopped state Reps. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, and Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, on I-10 in Madison last November as the lawmakers drove to Tallahassee for a post-election swearing-in ceremony. The trooper said each man was going 87 miles per hour, but he chose to issue both men low-level citations for not having proof of insurance and in Clelland's case for no registration. McBurney' letter of complaint to FHP triggered an investigation that led to Swindle's firing, but neither lawmaker was asked to testify at Swindle's PERC hearing.
-- Steve Bousquet