Thursday, October 22, 2020

Thompson Fired Again


Photo by Steve Stefanides | Tige Thompson.


The revolving door considering the employment of Marco Police Officer Tige Thompson has continued to rotate at a dizzying pace. Last week, it was announced by Chief Tracy Frazzano that Thompson has once again been discharged from his duties. This after winning his Arbitration case which was heard earlier in 2020 and a ruling made in May. 

This latest turn in the ongoing dispute with the officer revolves around his refusal to adhere to a new set of requirements as dictated by the State of Florida. That new stipulation requires “reinstated” officers to submit to both fingerprinting, physical testing and a drug screening before reassuming their official duties. 

The quandary which the Department had been placed in would deal with the local State Attorney’s Office refusal to accept testimony from the officer regarding criminal cases that the officer was involved in, as he had been placed on the Brady List” by their office. 

New trials have been granted for defendants when it has been revealed that officers have had disciplinary action taken against them by their departments for breaching ethical guidelines and the moral standards of the position they hold. These actions are a direct result of the prosecution not revealing an officer’s background to the defense. 

As a result of this, agencies across the nation have provided to prosecutors “Brady Lists,” or what some refer to as “Exclusionary Lists.” These lists are created that detail names of officers who may meet those criteria which could be called into question and potentially harm cases they are prosecuting if called upon to testify. 

Since the Supreme Court Ruling in 1963 regarding Brady v. Maryland, wherein the Supreme Court Ruled that prosecutors are required to disclose all information regarding whether or not an officer has been found to be truthful in testimony given previously or in actions relative to his law enforcement responsibilities. It also ruled to ensure all evidence is turned over to the defense that might exonerate an accused. 

Supreme Court Justice William Douglas famously wrote as part of that decision, “Society wins not only when the guilty are convicted but when criminal trials are fair,” 

Thompson had been fired by thenSheriff Don Hunter of Collier County after an investigation revealed he had lied regarding his involvement in an incident at the Great Naples Dock and Canoe Races in 2004. He would be subsequently hired by the Marco Department shortly after. 

The problems regarding the Marco officer have a long historical background. The Office of the State Attorney, 20th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida came forward as early as 2011 to make the Marco Department aware of their concerns involving testimony by thenSergeant Tige Thompson, concerning a DUI arrest. 

The State Attorney’s Office (SAO) returned a second time to make those same concerns known to newly appointed Chief Don Hunter after the retirement of former Chief Thom Carr. They advised Hunter that Thomson was now considered to be unreliable and was being placed on the “Brady List.” 

As part of cleaning up a number of Internal Affairs cases, newly appointed Chief Al Schettino had the Thompson case reviewed, after a third visit by the SAO. Schettino’s investigators found the time limits to deal with a case such as this had expired under the provisions of the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights had expired. 

In the case of Thompson, the SAO in Fort Myers could have opened an investigation, and if warranted, brought charges against Thompson, but they failed to do so. When asked why they hadn’t by former Chief Al Schettino, he was advised, it was a decision made above that official’s rank in the State Attorney’s Office in Fort Myers.  

One of the issues that law enforcement agencies and the State Attorney’s Offices around Florida are dealing with lies with the lack of continuity regarding the Brady Ruling. Each jurisdiction deals with that legal ruling in a different way and many officers are found testifying in cases in spite of their past issues.  

In May of 2019, former Acting City Manager Harden chose to dismiss Thompson from his post due to his “inability to carry out the duties assigned to an officer.” Thompson subsequently challenged that action, and an arbitrator who reviewed the case found that the city had failed to provide any evidence of wrongdoing, with the exception of the SAO’s decision 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 thenActing City Manager Harden. Thompson’s one year of salary and any raises since his dismissal. In addition to those fees paid by the city for their legal representation will also have to be considered as part of the costs to taxpayers. 

In this latest action on August 25 of this year, Thompson was served with a Notice of Intent to Terminate. That notice referred to his refusal to adhere to an order to submit to an FDLE requirement to acquiesce to a drug screening and medical examination. That is 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, or on the date and time prescribed by the instructions he had received. It was also pointed out in the Termination of Employment Notice dated September 11, that the independent screening did not meet the standards of the FDLE requirements for that testing. 

The fivepage document outlining his termination reiterates the city’s reasoning for the termination of the 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. Thompson has also been paid the monetary requirements of that judgment.  

The attorney representing Thompson claimed those stipulations requiring Thompson submit to drug testing and fingerprinting were not part of the ruling in Thompson’s favor in May of 2020, which ordered him reinstated with full back pay and seniority. 

It is unclear where the case will proceed from this point in time.


 

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