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Volusia County beach-safety officer fired for offensive emails
By Pat Andrews
posted Aug 14, 2013 - 3:47:12pm
Volusia County has fired the beach-safety officer accused of using county equipment while on duty to send offensive emails and texts about the Trayvon Martin case.
Beach Safety Officer Todd Snipes was dismissed Aug. 9.
"The texts and messages were unprofessional and disturbing, coming from a supervisor of Volusia County Beach Safety," and "showed horrible judgment," Snipes' supervisor George Recktenwald said.
Among the messages, county officials said, was the comment "another thug gone!" which Snipes posted on Facebook, referring to Martin, a 17-year-old black youth shot and killed by Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
"Our community is the better after this action, and I commend the county for taking the appropriate action in his dismissal," said Dr. L. Ronald Durham, president of the Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance and pastor of Greater Friendship Baptist Church.
While on duty with the Beach Safety Ocean Rescue Division, Snipes sent messages to several former and current Beach Safety employees, including subordinates, and to officers of other law-enforcement agencies, the county said.
One was a cartoon portraying Martin standing in a convenience store, holding a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. The image is captioned, "Those Skittles were to die for."
Martin was carrying those items when he encountered Zimmerman in a gated community in Sanford last year where Martin was visiting relatives.
Zimmerman followed Martin and said he shot him in self-defense during a fight. Zimmerman was acquitted in July of second-degree murder and manslaughter, giving rise to protests from African-American leaders and other civil-rights supporters around the country.
Snipes' actions in reaction to the case violated policy and procedure, including standards regarding derogatory ethnic remarks and conduct of employees, cast the county in a bad light, and created what would appear as a hostile work environment to subordinates and coworkers, and created what would appear to the public as a racist environment, Recktenwald said.
Snipes' comments during a meeting did not indicate that he understood the gravity of his actions, Recktenwald added.
Snipes can appeal the firing through the County Personnel Board.
A lifeguard supervisor, Snipes has been a county employee for 24 years, and was making $21.61 per hour.
Durham said he was relieved by the firing.
"It is intolerable for a law-enforcement officer to harbor a racist mentality, and purport to be a community servant who should be concerned about all of its citizens and visiting guests," the pastor said.
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