Marco Island Police Department again fires 'Brady cop'
Reinstated in May and placed under investigation a little more than two weeks later, Marco Island police officer Tige Thompson is without a job again.
The Marco Island Police Department fired Thompson Friday for insubordination and violating other department policies when he refused to take a drug test a couple of weeks after an arbitrator reinstated him in May.
Thompson's union attorney, Michael Braverman, complained to arbitrator Gerald Fowler that the drug test order was not part of the terms of Thompson's reinstatement. But one day before Thompson returned to the police department, a change to state rules that requires reinstated officers be fingerprinted and drug tested went into effect.
"As part of the reinstatement process, he refused to comply with steps required by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the City of Marco Island to be reappointed," Police Chief Tracy Frazzano wrote in an statement to the Daily News. "Based on this, his service with the Marco Island Police Department was terminated.”
Thompson declined an interview request and said that he is assessing his administrative and civil remedies.
Fired, reinstated then fired once more
Fowler reinstated Thompson on May 6, nearly a year after the city fired him. Last year the city claimed he could not fulfill a police officer's duties, specifically testifying in court, because of his inclusion on the state attorney's office's Brady list.
Brady lists are tools state attorney's offices use to keep track of officers with credibility concerns or to bar them from testifying in court.
Its name comes from the Supreme Court's landmark decision in the 1963 case Brady v. Maryland, which requires prosecutors to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense, including any evidence that could impeach a witness.
Thompson's addition to the list stemmed from a DUI case nearly a decade ago, where he was accused of being untruthful during a DMV hearing.
Despite the city's new position on Thompson, it had allowed him to serve as a police officer for several years, including the last few as a patrolman, while he was on the Brady list.
Thompson's placement on the list led to a lack of prosecution on the vast majority of arrests where he was involved. The final straw for his career was the lack of prosecution in the December 2018 arrest of Peter Tremont, a Marco Island man who barricaded himself in his home with more than 20 guns and 8,000 rounds of ammunition, prompting a standoff with SWAT.
In reinstating Thompson, Fowler stated that inclusion on the Brady list is not immediate grounds for termination.
“Although the testimony of the new Chief for the City indicated that (Thompson) could not be utilized as a police officer, the facts of the case suggest that in fact he has been and can continue to be,” Fowler wrote in the May 6 arbitration award.
Before allowing him back to work, the city issued a letter on May 19, stating that Thompson would have to fulfill specific terms and conditions, including a medical examination and drug test, before resuming his duties.
The following evening, Capt. Dave Baer emailed Thompson the details of his drug screen and medical exam, which prompted Braverman to state that his client would not comply.
"Officer Thompson will not be submitting to any pre-employment testing of any kind," Braverman wrote in an email. "I am advising you to cease any contact with Officer Thompson until the City fully complies with arbitrator Fowler's award."
A costly back-and-forth for taxpayers
The requirements for officers reinstated through arbitration also were outlined in a memo by the state's Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, the body that is in charge of certifying and decertifying law enforcement officers.
Frazzano rejected arguments that the expectations for reinstatement were unclear to Thompson and that Thompson was unsure an order was given.
In addition to terminating Thompson again, the city is attempting to have the arbitrator's decisions vacated.
The city filed a motion to vacate the decisions last month in civil court, arguing that Fowler exceeded his authority and made decisions inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement. The civil case is pending.
For Marco Island taxpayers, the last 19 months have been costly, especially when considering the city has paid Thompson not to do any work, records show.
The city placed Thompson on paid administrative leave for three months last year before deciding to fire him.
As part of Thompson's reinstatement, Fowler ordered the city to compensate him for lost wages over the previous year. In the four months since that decision, the city placed him on administrative leave until his ouster.
In salary alone, the city has paid out more than $109,000 since Thompson was first placed on administrative leave in February 2019, according to payroll records.
The city also has spent more than $43,000 in legal fees in exploring its employment options with Thompson and losing the arbitration case.
Connect with reporter Devan Patel: @DevanJPatel (Twitter) or firstname.lastname@example.org