A former Marco Island Police lieutenant is suing the city and police chief, alleging he was retaliated against and fired after he cautioned the chief when he drove to a crime scene after a party and appeared intoxicated.
Cliff Morine, 38, of Estero, a nearly 11-year department veteran, alleges he asked Chief Thom Carr to remain in his police car on May 24, 2009, while he secured a crime scene during a death investigation because he was concerned for the chief’s safety and that he’d contaminate the crime scene, says the lawsuit filed Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Fort Myers.
The chief’s gait was unsteady, according to the lawsuit, he had to hold the vehicle to steady himself, and he had a strong odor of alcohol.
“Carr’s speech was slurred and it was hard to understand what he was trying to say,” says the lawsuit filed by attorney Steven Wenzel of Tampa. “His eyes were very glassy and bloodshot. ... Morine directed Carr to get back in his car in the passenger’s seat and remain there without driving because he was so intoxicated.”
Instead of remaining in his police car as directed by a law enforcement officer, Carr got in the driver’s seat and sped off, says the lawsuit, noting Morine was concerned because he believed “Carr was so intoxicated that he would have an accident and incur liability on behalf of the city.”
Afterward, Carr began to retaliate against Morine, isolating him from duties and Carr’s direct communication, denying his training requests, and making unwarranted schedule changes and shift transfers, the lawsuit says. He also didn’t allow Morine to rotate every three months from night shift to day shift, as was the practice for 10 years, the lawsuit says.
Morine confronted Carr, asking why he wasn’t being treated fairly and what he could do to make the unfair treatment stop. Carr began yelling at him, the lawsuit says, asking if he really wanted to know why he was being treated that way. Morine said he did.
“Carr stated that he heard that Morine was going to file a complaint with the city manager and (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) for his driving his police vehicle in the condition he was in on May 24, 2009, while at Morine’s crime scene,” the lawsuit says.
Morine said he couldn’t believe the treatment was caused by Carr’s actions, not his own, and asked to have his schedule changed, but the lawsuit says the chief said he’d let him know. Morine then complained to Capt. Dave Baer, who told him once the chief feels he’s loyal again, the treatment would improve.
However, the lawsuit says, Carr took further retaliatory actions and caused his termination on July 25, 2010. City records show he was hired Aug. 9, 1999.
Carr declined comment, referring questions to the city’s law firm. Attorney Alan Gabriel of Fort Lauderdale said he could not immediately comment because he hadn’t seen the lawsuit or discussed it with city officials. City Manager Dr. James Riviere wasn’t the manager at the time of the alleged incident and said he’d have to review records to determine if Morine had filed a complaint against Carr.
The FDLE has no record of a complaint against Carr, according to FDLE spokeswoman Kristi Gordon.
The lawsuit says Carr violated Morine’s federally protected rights under the First Amendment, the right to free speech, and seeks economic and compensatory damages. It also seeks punitive damages against Carr, an amount meant to punish and deter others from similar alleged wrongdoing.