Trooper Gave Legislators’ Ticket, Gets Job Back

TALLAHASSEE — A state hearing officer on Monday ruled that the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles should not have fired Trooper Charles Swindle for his actions in citing two state legislators for nonexisting violations.

Hearing officer Gregg Morton said in a ruling that by pulling over two lawmakers, Swindle “was in a no-win situation.” Morton concluded that Swindle should serve a three-week suspension without pay and be reinstated to his full-time position with back pay as a member of the Florida Highway Patrol.

In his 22-page decision, Morton agreed with the state that Swindle violated two agency rules in the stops involving state Reps. Charles McBurney and Mike Clelland on Interstate 10 in Madison in November. But the hearing officer concluded that Swindle made snap decisions and that he was guided by a long-standing unofficial FHP policy of leniency toward legislators.

Swindle’s particular actions in this case were heavily influenced by the Agency’s unwritten policy toward traffic stops involving legislators,” Morton wrote. “Under these circumstances, the Agency bears some responsibility for Swindle’s actions and, therefore, I regard his violations as less severe than they might otherwise be viewed.
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