The Tampa Police Department DUI team supervisor who was fired after allegations about his conduct in the much publicized DUI arrest of attorney Phil Campbell earlier this year is attempting to get his job back. He has just had a grievance meeting with Assistant Police Chief John Newman at the Tampa Town Hall with several others present, although his own attorney did most of the talking.
Sergeant Fitzgerald and his attorney, Chip Purcell, think he did nothing wrong when he arrested Campbell after apparently getting a tip off from someone he knew who was working for Campbell’s opposing side in the Todd MJ Schnitt vs Bubba the Love Sponge Clem legal wrangle.
The fight to get Fernandez reinstated has apparently only just started and could take a year before a final decision is made. There are several organizations involved in the investigation into the happenings that took place the day that Campbell was arrested. These include the FBI, the Police Department itself and the Florida Bar. The latter is particularly looking at the conduct of the two key lawyers at the Adams and Diaco law firm that had been representing Bubba at the time of the arrest – Adam Filthault and Steve Diaco.
Adam Filthault, one of the firm’s lawyers, just happens to be Sergeant Fernandez’s son’s godfathers and the two obviously know each other well. The Tampa Police Department has said that 92 text messages were sent between Filthault, Fernandez and Ms. Personius, the paralegal working for Adams and Diaco who had met Phil Campbell at Mario’s Bar the night he was arrested. It was Ms. Personius’s car that was being driven by Campbell when he was stopped by Fernandez and another police officer and then subsequently arrested.
Purcell said that it would have been impossible to send 92 text messages just about where and what Phil Campbell had been doing that night. He said that they also exchanged news about paintball and their kids.
Chief Jane Castor of the Police Department maintains that Sergeant Fernandez abused his power as a police officer during the arrest and allowed personal relationships he had to influence him.
Fernandez’s attorney said that the meeting at the Town Hall went well and felt “very encouraged” about the prospects of his client being reinstated.
The Tampa Police Department now has two weeks to make a decision after reviewing the case. If it still refuses to reinstate the ex Sergeant, the whole affair goes to another hearing with the city, then an independent arbitrator, whose decision is supposed to be binding.
Meanwhile, Phil Campbell’s own attorney in the DUI case is not at all happy with what he considered went on before and after his client’s arrest. He thinks that some of the lawyers involved in what he believes was a set up by the Adams And Diaco firm should be disbarred after being investigated. The odds don’t necessarily favor this. The Florida Bar apparently investigates nearly 700 lawyers every year in the state, with around half of them facing some sort of disciplinary action. However, only a handful, about 1 in 1000, actually gets disbarred every year.
This whole story started with a radio personality’s reputation at stake. It has now mushroomed out of proportion and several reputations now hinge on the resolution of the Fernandez case. This includes Sergeant Fernandez himself, the lawyers at the Adams and Diaco firm and the Tampa Police Department. Last, but not least, are the dozens of people who have been arrested as a result of Sergeant Fernandez for DUI over the years whose cases are also being reviewed. The story will be continued to be watched by many people in Tampa and across the state in the weeks and months to come.