A Florida state trooper is trying to get his job back after being fired for giving a speeding lawmaker a break.
Charles Swindle said he was dismissed March 15 -- despite a recommendation letter from his immediate supervisor -- after what many troopers say has long been a long, albeit hush-hush practice of giving speeding legislators a break when possible.
"This is the policy at FHP and it has been for years," said Tallahassee attorney Sid Matthew, who is representing the fired trooper.
While Swindle's attorney has lined up several troopers to testify on behalf of his client about favoritism for lawmakers, officials at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles deny it exists.
"There clearly is no policy, none at all," agency communications director Leslie Palmer said Wednesday.
Swindle wrote state Rep. Charles McBurney a $10 ticket on Nov. 19, 2012 for a lesser offense of not having proof of insurance instead of a $250 speeding fine, although the lawmaker did have his card in the car.
A week later, McBurney wrote on Florida House of Representatives stationery to the head of the Florida Highway Patrol to complain about Swindle.
"If the legislators expect to get a break, they can't go back to Jacksonville, turn around and get the guy fired," Matthew said, describing the patrol's handling of the affair as "outrageous."
Matthew is representing Swindle in his job appeal before the state's Public Employee Relations Commission. No date has been scheduled for the hearing, Matthew said.
Reports provided by Matthew and the DHSMV show McBurney was clocked at 87, but he complained that his cruise control was set at 75 so Swindle checked with headquarters and was advised to cooperate with the lawmaker if possible.
McBurney, a 55-year-old Jacksonville lawyer, paid a $10 fine Dec. 6 in Madison County after showing proof of insurance.
An aide to McBurney said the lawmaker would return a call for comment after completing his legislative schedule Wednesday.
A week before Swindle's termination, his immediate supervisor for the past six years wrote a recommendation that called him "an outstanding employee that can be counted upon at all times."
Patrol Sgt. Gary Dawson described 30-year-old Swindle as a highly motivated and aggressive enforcement officer, especially in DUI cases.
"I am sure that whatever agency is fortunate enough to have Trp Swindle as an employee, their rewards will far exceed the salary he is paid," Dawson said in his letter to FHP headquarters.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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