Misuse of handicap placard costs BSO deputy his job
By Heather Carney Sun Sentinel 10:49 p.m. EDT, September 21, 2012
Flashing emergency lights and a handicap placard led to trouble for two Broward sheriff's deputies, according to Internal Affairs files released this week.
Sgt. Robert Chenoweth was caught off duty using his emergency lights to bypass $7.80 worth of tolls on Florida's Turnpike in May and June. He received a written reprimand and temporary loss of a take-home police car.
Deputy Marcin Grzyb was fired Aug. 8 after he falsified documents to get a handicap placard so he could park more easily at the Broward County Main Jail in Fort Lauderdale while on duty.
In Chenoweth's case, Palm Beach Regional Investigator Shafik Najam caught him on video driving through the toll plaza on Florida's Turnpike with his car's emergency lights on six times in May and June. In each instance, he was driving home northbound and exited at Lake Worth Road in Palm Beach County.
In a sworn statement, Chenoweth said his SunPass stopped working and then he activated his emergency equipment, relying on a state law that doesn't require marked vehicles on official business to pay the toll.
The investigator reviewed Chenoweth's work schedule and verified that he was off-duty during the times he drove through the toll booth.
But a loophole in the SunPass system means Chenoweth's toll violations could have gone unnoticed if he hadn't activated his emergency lights and then turned them off after passing through the toll plaza, turnpike spokesman Chad Huff said.
Police cars are not charged a toll when they go through the toll plaza because "there's no way to determine whether they're on-duty," Huff said.
Chenoweth, who was hired in 2011, has since purchased a SunPass for exclusive use in his marked vehicle. He was not allowed to use the police car as a take-home vehicle for 30 days starting Aug. 8.
Grzyb, a nine-year employee, was fired after a doctor's exam found he did not have a disability warranting a handicap pass that he used to park in a handicap parking space at the jail. He said he needed the state-issued handicap pass because of a knee injury from seven years ago, according to the IA report.
"Deputy Grzyb is fit for duty and never was disabled," Dr. Robert Fleigelman said after completing an exam.
A woman reported to Lt. Col. Kim Spadaro that she saw Grzyb park his vehicle in the handicap spot and run up the stairs toward the Main Jail, according to the IA report.
Grzyb told Fleigelman that a friend told him about a doctor who could give him a handicap pass without doing an exam. He said he wanted the pass because it was difficult to park at the main jail, according to the IA report.
The officer violated four sheriff's policies for lying about and using the pass: official misconduct by falsifying a record; obtaining a fraudulent disabled parking permit; failing to meet BSO standards; and conduct unbecoming for an officer on or off duty. firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4188
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