FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – A Flagler County deputy who was fired more than one year ago will be rehired by the Sheriff's Office after the former deputy appealed his termination and an arbitrator said he should be reinstated.
Officials said Deputy Robert Finn was supposed to respond as backup to a medical call on Carlson Lane in Palm Coast at 2:04 a.m. on April 16, 2018. While on his way to that call, a wrong-way driver drove past him as he was exiting Interstate 95 at Palm Coast Parkway, the report said.
Finn had to take evasive action to avoid a head-on collision, but he did not pull over the vehicle because he said he thought he saw the vehicle turn at the end of the ramp to correct its course, according to the investigation.
Instead, Finn continued to the medical call even though another deputy and medical units had already arrived at that scene. He arrived there at 2:14 a.m., one minute after dispatch received a report of a wrong-way crash on I-95.
Finn responded to the scene of that crash at 2:17 a.m.
That crash left the wrong-way driver, Wendell Parker, dead and another driver seriously injured.
Finn was terminated from the Sheriff's Office last July. He had been employed with the Sheriff's Office since June 2011.
Finn appealed his termination, and the case was sent to arbitration so "both the FCSO and the Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association could be heard and decided by an arbitrator as required by the union’s collective bargaining contract," according to the Sheriff's Office.
The arbitrator found that Fin “erred several times and disobeyed rules and regulations of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office." However, on Wednesday the arbitrator ruled that the Sheriff's Office must reinstate Finn without back pay or missed benefits.
The decision is binding, and the Sheriff's Office cannot appeal the ruling.
“Although we disagree with the decision of the arbitrator, the discipline he imposed is still substantial and we will abide by that decision as it is a collective bargaining agreement requirement and we believe in the process of law,” Chief of Staff Mark Strobridge said in a statement.
Finn will return to work at the Sheriff's Office as a deputy in the community policing division. He will also receive additional training.