Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact Florida: Rep. Trey Radel's cocaine record would bar him driving Lee County school bus

U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers, is back to work in Congress following a few weeks in rehab after he got busted for cocaine possession in Washington.

He's lucky he has that job, some say. With a drug arrest on his record, he wouldn't be eligible for a host of other gigs — like driving a bus in his own district.

Radel's conviction has prompted some high-profile Republicans to call for his ouster. Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott vowed to be a "staunch advocate for (Radel's) political replacement" and unleashed this attack:

"While Radel returned to his congressional office following a microwave stint in rehab and a gaggle of rehearsed apologies, I have hundreds of inmates in our jail that are unable to return to their home due to similar or lesser drug offenses," Scott wrote Jan. 11 on Facebook. "The sad reality is that Trey Radel does not even qualify to drive a Lee County school bus at this point, yet he occupies a seat in Congress."

Does Radel's cocaine possession conviction mean he would not meet the qualifications to drive a Lee County school bus?

On Oct. 29, Radel was nabbed after he bought 3.5 grams of cocaine for $260 from an undercover agent in the District of Columbia. He then brought agents to his apartment, where he handed over a vial of cocaine. Radel kept his case quiet until it reached court a few weeks later, and then the news exploded about the 37-year-old TV reporter turned tea party freshman busted for cocaine.

On Nov. 20, Radel pleaded guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession and was sentenced to one year of probation. Radel spent about a month in rehab and returned to Congress in early January.

If he had been arrested for cocaine possession in Florida, he would have faced a felony charge.

"Possession of cocaine in any amount is a felony in Florida," Scott said in an email. Three and a half grams "would constitute a third-degree felony, while greater quantities and/or trafficking amounts can escalate the degree of seriousness."

Across the country, a misdemeanor drug possession statute isn't unusual, though felonies appear to be more of the norm.

Now, what would Radel's conviction mean as far as applying to be a Lee County school district bus driver?

The Lee County School District won't hire an individual — including a bus driver — who has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug charge less than five years ago or a felony drug charge less than 10 years old, or someone who is currently on probation, said Ranice Monroe, the school district's director of professional standards and equity.

Even if a defendant gets an adjudication withheld, the district won't hire the individual, Monroe said.

"Our standards are high," he said. "We don't make exceptions."

If someone was already a bus driver and then pleaded guilty to a drug charge, the employee would face discipline including the potential of being fired, Monroe said.

"What we perceive is you are taking drugs, which is a violation of our rules," she said.

We also contacted spokespersons for a few other Florida school districts to ask if a cocaine possession conviction would make a school bus driver candidate ineligible. Policies vary from similar in Miami-Dade to Pasco, where guidelines call for a committee review but not automatic denial of employment for drug convictions.

Now, school bus drivers must have a commercial driver's license.

A cocaine possession plea "in and of itself would not necessarily prevent a person from obtaining a CDL or result in a revocation of a CDL," John Lucas, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles told PolitiFact in an email. "That decision would have to come from the courts. However, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles could take action if the person was found to be in possession of cocaine while operating a commercial vehicle."

So, Radel's future as a congressman may be in the hands of the voters of southwest Florida. But the Lee County sheriff is correct that Radel's drug conviction has put the brakes on him becoming a bus driver.

We rate this claim True.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com/Florida.

Comments
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Updated: 4 hours ago
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18