Marco Island city employee terminated prior to DUI, drug possession charges dropped
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A Marco Island city employee that was arrested during a workday on DUI and multiple drug possession offenses earlier this month was fired days before the state attorney's office declined to prosecute the charges.
City Manager David Harden confirmed that former information technology specialist Anthony Chiaradonna was terminated effective Jan. 31 after he declined to participate in a pre-disciplinary meeting regarding his actions.
Chiaradonna, 41, was initially arrested on charges of driving under the influence with property damage, possession of a controlled substance, possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia just before 1 p.m., Jan. 11.
While court documents filed Monday revealed that the state attorney's office declined to prosecute the case, Harden reiterated that it has always been his position that the outcome of an employee criminal case would not have an impact on the employment decisions given that criminal trials and disciplinary matters were based on different standards of evidence.
The state attorney's office cited insufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, but its decision not to prosecute the case was based on the officer that made the arrest.
For years, the state attorney's office has refused to use Marco Island police officer Tige Thompson as a witness for the prosecution in criminal cases due to credibility issues.
Besides being previously terminated from the Collier County Sheriff's Office, Thompson was found to have lied while providing testimony on a DUI case in 2011 that resulted in the state attorney's office having to drop those charges.
Prosecutors are required to disclose credibility issues of law enforcement officers in cases they try, thus prompting the state attorney's office to place Thompson on its do-not-subpoena list.
With respect to Chiaradonna's arrest, Marco Island police responded to calls of a reckless driver and observed his vehicle strike the rear bumper of a parked car while barely missing four other parked vehicles.
Prior to the stop near the 700 block of East Elkham Circle, Chiaradonna had reported to work and told police that he was heading back.
After Chiaradonna failed a field sobriety test, police recovered a short drinking straw containing a powdery substance that was later confirmed to be heroin during a search of his vehicle. Five film packages allegedly containing the controlled substance Suboxone were also recovered.
During the 20-minute observation period before a breathe test was administered, Chiaradonna also told officers that he had not been drinking but had inhaled heroin, which he said he had been addicted to since 2006, according to the police report.
Chiaradonna declined to provide a blood or urine sample required for drug evaluation, prompting automatic issuance of the DUI charge.
Despite Chiaradonna's admission of drug addiction, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not provide employment protections for current illegal drug use or use of drugs or alcohol in the workplace.
Chiaradonna had been employed with the city of Marco Island since Dec. 17, 2012.