A fired Florida Highway Patrol trooper is accusing his former agency of promoting an unwritten policy of not issuing traffic tickets to state lawmakers, even when they deserve them.
Trooper Charles Swindle was fired over the way he handled a traffic stop involving state Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville.McBurney was traveling to Tallahassee last November when he was pulled over for speeding.
Swindle decided to issue a warning ticket. He claims the Highway Patrol does not ticket lawmakers because they control pay raises and other funding.
But McBurney did get a $10 fine for not having proof of insurance, even though he insisted he did have an insurance card and tried to show it.
An inspector generals report concludes the trooper told McBurney he could either take the $250 ticket for speeding or the $10 fine. So McBurney complained to the head of FHP and, following an investigation, Swindle was fired.
Lt. Col. Ernie Duarte says Swindle was let go for unethical behavior.
"Based on our findings, we found that this particular member acted in an unethical manner and as a result of that, he was terminated. We have a policy that requires our members to act in a professional, ethical manner, use good judgment and based on the findings of the case we found that this member did not follow those rules and guidelines and therefore he was terminated.
FHP does not have a written or unwritten policy that requires our members to treat members of the Legislature any differently than the regular public.
To prove it, the Florida Highway Patrol issued of list of about a dozen lawmakers who have received traffic tickets from state troopers over the past two years.
Swindle is challenging the firing.
Dave Heller is a Tallahassee freelance reporter/videographer.