The City of Marco Island once again has been dealt a disappointing ruling by a state court in its attempts to deal with a police officer who has had a long string of problems within both Marco Police Department and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
Officer Tige Thompson joined the Marco Department shortly after being dismissed by then Collier County Sheriff Don Hunter. That dismissal was due to what was described as his failure to be truthful regarding an investigation involving an incident that occurred at the Great Naples Dock and Canoe Races in 2004 while he was employed by the Sheriff’s Office.
The Office of the State Attorney of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida came forward as early as 2011 to make the Marco Department aware of its concerns involving testimony by then Sergeant Tige Thompson regarding a DUI arrest.
They came back two more times to advise leadership within the department of concerns regarding Thompson. It was under then-Chief Al Schettino that they made their last visit. Schettino opened an Internal Affairs Investigation and forwarded that report to Acting City Manager David Harden.
In May of 2019, Harden chose to dismiss Thompson from his post due to his “inability to carry out the duties assigned to an officer.” Thompson then invoked his right to have an arbitrator review the case. In the subsequent review, the arbitrator found the city failed to provide any evidence of wrongdoing, with the exception of the decision of the State Attorney’s Office to not accept testimony from Thompson.
The arbitrator required that the city return Thompson to his previous job assignment and pay him all back pay since his severance by then-Acting City Manager Harden. Thompson’s one year of salary, any raises since his dismissal, and those fees paid by the city for their legal representation also had to be considered with his May 2020 reinstatement. Thompson has been paid the monetary requirements of that judgment.
On August 25, 2020, Thompson was served with a Notice of Intent to Terminate. That notice was based upon his refusal to adhere to an order to comply with a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) requirement to submit to a drug screening and medical examination. That was a new State of Florida requirement for both new hires and reinstated officers.
It appears Thompson did submit to a drug screen, but not with the agency, nor on the date and time prescribed by the instructions he had received. It was also pointed out in the Termination of Employment Notice, that the independent screening did not meet the standards of the FDLE requirements for that testing.
The five-page document outlining his termination reiterated the city’s reasoning for the termination of employment for refusing a lawful order to submit to a drug screen and medical examination as part of his reinstatement as ordered by the arbitrator.
The attorney representing Thompson claimed the stipulations requiring Thompson to submit to drug testing and fingerprinting were not part of the ruling in Thompson’s favor which ordered him reinstated with full back pay and seniority.
Earlier this week a new ruling by the court found in Thompson’s favor. It is unclear as of this writing what options are available to the city.
For updates on this story and other Marco area news in the April 29 edition of the Coastal Breeze News, check online at www.coastalbreezenews.com or on our Facebook Page.