A Lee County Sheriff’s Office sergeant fired in October for insubordination should not be reinstated, a county board determined Tuesday.
Sgt. Ross DiPasquale was fired after a sheriff’s office internal investigation found he told deputies he supervised not to worry about writing tickets or conducting traffic stops. Investigators said DiPasquale told deputies they didn’t have to do the work because they didn’t receive bonuses the rest of the department received.
In September, Sheriff Mike Scott awarded $2.3 million in bonuses to employees but left out sergeants and deputies because of their union involvement. Of the sheriff's office 1,469 employees, 507 did not receive bonuses, according to sheriff's office public records.
The International Union of Police Associations appealed to the Lee County Civil Service Commission, seeking DiPasquale’s full reinstatement. The commission voted 3-2 against the appeal.
“You’re looking at a 23-year veteran with a lot of skills, a good record,” said Rich Roberts, spokesman for the International Union of Police Associations, “and this is a loss to the county. And these kinds of things are the kind of thing that actually creates problems for the public safety.”
Investigators said the average number of calls responded to per deputy dropped after DiPasquale made the comment.
Roberts said there is no evidence DiPasquale’s comment caused deputies to neglect work. Witnesses called to testify during Tuesday’s commission meeting said DiPasquale’s comment had no effect on their work, and they did not take him seriously, Roberts said.
Roberts believes Scott fired DiPasquale as retaliation for speaking his mind.
“The most that he did as far as everything I’ve been told is express dissatisfaction over the bonus,” Roberts said.
He believes the Lee County Civil Service Commission’s decision was biased — the commission is made up of four sheriff’s office employees and a civilian, Roberts said.
Scott instituted a policy Feb. 29 prohibiting sheriff’s office employees from conducting interviews with The News-Press. He issued the following statement to Southwest Florida media:
“My experience has been that when the Civil Service Board exonerates the accused these same complainers think it worked wonderfully.”
The union is looking into whether there is another recourse to appeal DiPasquale’s firing.
There was no answer Tuesday at a phone number listed in DiPasquale’s name.