Florida: Drug Arrest Costs Former Prison Official Retirement Benefits
On May 10, 2016, Administrative Law Judge G.W. Chisenhall upheld a decision by the Florida State Board of Administration (Board) to strip retirement benefits from Charles G. Combs, a former major at the Florida State Prison who was arrested for buying Oxycodone from Dylan Hilliard, a guard who worked at the same facility. An investigation resulted in the arrests of 10 Florida Department of Corrections employees.
Combs, who oversaw the prison’s work camp, had been enrolled in the state’s 401(k)-style retirement plan when he pleaded no contest to two charges with adjudication withheld. That allowed him to avoid a conviction record if he met specific conditions; however, the Board then notified Combs he had forfeited his state retirement benefits.
Combs appealed, arguing that he should not lose his benefits because the charges were not related to his job and there had been no “breach of the public trust.” Chisenhall disagreed, finding that “Mr. Combs defrauded the public from receiving the faithful performance of his duties as a correctional officer. The public had a right to expect that one of its employees would not purchase drugs from someone he supervised. The public also had a right to expect that Mr. Combs would not use his authority at Florida State Prison to facilitate Mr. Hilliard’s illegal drug sales to other DOC employees. In addition, the public had a right to expect that Mr. Combs would not engage in illegal transactions on the grounds of Florida State Prison.”
As a result of the ruling, Combs lost all of his retirement benefits other than the funds he had personally paid into the retirement plan.
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