Note: When this article first published on Aug. 29, 2022, it listed the date of the incident at the center of the issue as Feb. 17, 2022, as listed in the Sheriff’s Internal Affairs Investigation. In fact, the incident took place on March 17.
Flagler County Sheriff’s Cpl. Rob Myers, a nine-year veteran of the agency, was demoted to deputy and placed on 18 months’ internal probation following an internal investigation that found he had been drinking and driving and drove alarmingly close to a deputy who was conducting an unrelated traffic stop.
The road deputy had to get out of the way then followed Myers to pull him over. Myers, who was confrontational during the stop, was impaired, according to the deputy, but was not cited for it or given field sobriety exercises.
Myers was off duty, as was his passenger, deputy Nancy Malheiros, the night of the incident–the night of St. Patrick’s Day. They’d been at European Village. Deputy Seth Green, who had previously worked under Myers–but was unaware that Myers was at the wheel when he drove by him–only wrote Myers a warning for “failure to yield to emergency vehicle.”
“The traffic investigation revealed that Myers had been drinking alcohol prior to being stopped,” the internal affairs investigation authorized on March 25 states. Myers was not cited for drinking and driving, even though Green thought he was impaired. Whatever Myers’s capability to drive was, Green arranged for a family member to take Myers and Malheiros home.
Myers, for his part, at one point called the situation “fucked up and bullshit” and is heard on a body cam saying that Green “needs to learn his place.”
The internal investigation found that Myers violated four standards of conduct, including “conformance to state and federal laws” (he had not slowed down to the required 20 mph below the speed limit when yielding to an emergency vehicle). He faced termination. Instead, Myers and the agency signed a “last chance agreement” that enable Myers to keep his job in light of his nine years with the agency, “as well as his candor and acceptance of responsibility for the incident(s),” according to the wording of the agreement. He was demoted on Aug. 10. He could yet be fired if he is involved in any off-duty issue involving alcohol, has a sustained allegation of misconduct or if his job performance is deemed unsatisfactory. His probation could be abbreviated at the 12-month mark.
The incident took place on March 17 (not Feb. 17, as initially reported). Green had started the unrelated traffic stop shortly after 10 p.m. Myers approached from the rear, driving north on Palm Harbor Drive. Green said that as he was getting out of his patrol vehicle, Myers “failed to slow or vacate the lane of traffic,” the investigation states. “Being concerned about being hit by the vehicle, Green leaned his back up against his vehicle as the vehicle passed within two feet. (Estimated) Green reentered his patrol vehicle, terminated his original stop and attempted to stop the second vehicle.”
He recognized Myers, who disputed Green’s claim that he’d come close to him. Green could smell “a strong odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle” and described Myers’s “bloodshot glassy eyes” to the internal investigator. Malheiros “appeared extremely intoxicated” and confused, but of course she was not driving: intoxication is not illegal when not at the wheel of a vehicle. “Myers became argumentative, defensive and began badgering Green with ideas of ulterior motives for the traffic stop,” the investigation’s findings continue, as Myers suggested that Green had something to gain from the traffic stop.
Myers had wrong-footed Green, who’d never dealt with a situation involving a superior officer and needed time to gather himself and make a decision. (The investigation describes Green as being “in distress”). “Green advised that he initiated a warning citation but was having difficulty completing it due his feelings over the interaction,” the investigation states. Asked in the internal investigation whether he’d determined that Myers was impaired, Green said yes.
Green had gone as far as separating Myers from Malheiros so he wouldn’t be influenced by the alcoholic emanations from Malheiros as he judged Myers’s level of impairment. Once he did so, Green could “still observe the odor of alcohol from Myers as well as having blood shot watery eyes and [how he] appeared to be attempting to hide clues from him and at that point he Green felt Myers was too impaired to drive.”
He decided to write the warning ticket and arrange for a ride home, to which Myers objected, claiming he was sober. Some 25 minutes later, Cmdr. Brian Finn–the only supervisor to come to the scene the entire incident–arrived, as did Malheiros’s son, who was to drive her and Myers home. Finn would tell the internal investigator that he told Green “he needed to handle this traffic as he would handle any other and that it was totally at his discretion.”
Finn had no interactions with Myers. That had been at Chief Bernard Woodward’s direction, by phone. Woodward was the shift commander. That kept him from making a determination about Myers’s impairment, but “Watching the other body cam footage,” Finn told the internal investigator, “it definitely leads credence a little more that he was [impaired] but without conducting my own investigation it’s really hard to say.”
Deputy Laura Jenkins joined the traffic stop and witnessed Myers’s confrontational behavior (“he was pretty demeaning”), but not signs of impairment.
Myers’s contempt for Green during the stop went as far as Myers texting Green during the stop: “Are we gonna sit here all night?” He later texted him, “Thanks for the chance to take FSE’s,” meaning field sobriety exercises. Green did not respond either times. (Myers would later make an issue, while speaking with the investigator, of Green not following procedure and administering field sobriety exercises.)
Green was asked by the internal investigator–Randall Doyle–what he thought about the entire incident and Myers demeanor and attitude. Green deemed Myers’s behavior “subpar to how anyone should act on a traffic stop let alone a supervisor, deputy or a friend. Green advised he believed those actions were the result of alcohol consumption,” the investigation states.
To Myers, there was history between him and Green, he told the investigator–a friendship that had taken a different turn recently when Green was “trying to sway the agency members to join a different union,” while Myers is a big proponent of the current union, the Police Benevolent Association. The tension over unions grew over months. Myers believed the stop was somehow connected to Green trying to tarnish his reputation. “It’s my opinion, I don’t have anything to factually base that on,” Myers told the investigator. He never explained how the stop would have been part of Green’s vendetta when Green had no idea he was pulling over a fellow-deputy when he initiated the stop.
Myers acknowledged that looking back, he could have handled things better during the stop. As for his level of impairment, he said he’d gone to European Village at 2 p.m. and had had “a total of 4-5 beers over an 8-hour period,” the last one at 9 p.m.
“Do you feel that you were under the influence to the point that your normal faculties were impaired?” Doyle asked him.
“Absolutely not,” Myers replied.
“Doyle advised that although he could not comment on his/Myers state of intoxication,” the investigator’s report states,
“his observations of his visual agitation and argumentative nature continues throughout the entire traffic stop with several individuals trying to encourage Myers to calm down and return to his vehicle. Doyle advised that with the question of intoxication level the individual looking in from the outside and viewing the body camera footage could indicate the influence of alcohol.” Still, while the internal investigation found Myers to have acted improperly, “Myers has sworn under oath that he was not intoxicated nor were his normal faculties impaired at the time of the traffic stop and his regretful behavior was solely based on said history between himself and Green.”
As a consequence of the settlement between the Sheriff’s Office and the union, the union will not file a grievance or a claim of unfair labor practices, even if Myers is fired in the event he’s found to have violated the agreement. Meanwhile, Myers is not eligible for merit pay increases, promotions or special assignments.