JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As millions take to the highways this holiday weekend, one state trooper will be home, wishing he was working.
Charles Swindle was told he was being fired for going easy on a state lawmaker. Now, he's waiting to see if he will get his job back.
In a video from last November, State Trooper Charles Swindle is seen ticketing two state lawmakers. Not a $251 ticket for doing 87 mph in a 70 mph zone, but a $10 ticket for not having proof of insurance. He cleared the deal with his supervisor.
"I'll write him a warning and be nice," Swindle said in the dash-cam video.
"Alright," said Swindle's supervisor.
"I'm going to charge him because I didn't see his insurance card," said Swindle.
Both lawmakers paid the $10 ticket, but Rep. Charles McBurney of Jacksonville complained. Swindle was fired.
Following a hearing with the Public Employees Relations Commission, a hearing officer recommended that Swindle get his job back.
"I was worried that I would get fired if I, you know, wrote him a big speeding ticket. I could have just let him go with a warning," said Swindle. "The whole unwritten policy to where you know, leniency on legislators, I never really agreed with it."
But FHP has challenged the reinstatement. Three hearing officers have until late July to rule. One of them, Mike Hogan, is a former lawmaker from McBurney's hometown of Jacksonville.
The reason there is an unwritten policy about ticketing lawmakers is because they have total control over the patrol's budget. Those same lawmakers also have total control over the funding for the commission that will decide Swindle's fate.
Swindle's attorney, Sid Matthew, hopes the funding doesn't play into the decision.
"I'm not concerned about Perk doing the right thing, and no being persuaded by extra political considerations, including whether the legislatures is going to cut their budget," said Matthew.
Other troopers have given the same ticket to lawmakers; Swindle was the only one that was ever fired.
The FHP said it wants Swindle fired for falsifying a ticket. They declined to explain until the next ruling in the case. Even if the three members of the panel rule against the trooper, his attorney said he will appeal to three real judges who face less political pressure from lawmakers.
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