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Hillsborough County human resources investigating employee fined by FCC for cellphone jammer

Hillsborough County has launched a human resources inquiry into an employee who the Federal Communications Commission said used a cellphone jammer for two years while commuting to work.

Jason R. Humphreys, 60, of Seffner, works for county real estate and facilities services. He faces a possible $48,000 fine by the FCC for using a cellphone jammer while driving along a section of Interstate 4.

MetroPCS contacted the FCC in April last year about its cellphone towers experiencing interference during the morning and evening commutes between Seffner and Tampa, the FCC said. Authorities monitored the route and identified Humphreys' blue Toyota Highlander SUV as the source of the interference.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office stopped Humphreys while he was operating the jammer on May 9. Deputies said communication with police dispatch was interrupted as they approached his vehicle.

A cellphone jammer was found in Humphreys' vehicle behind the passenger side seat cover, the FCC said. Humphreys told authorities he had been using the jammer for nearly two years to keep people from talking on their cellphones while driving.

Humphreys has 30 days to respond to the FCC fine by paying in full, requesting an installment plan, or seeking a reduction or cancellation by submitting federal tax returns and financial statements, according to FCC documents on the case.

Humphreys is a multitrades worker III with the county, making $50,253 a year, according to county records. The position requires driving to and from work sites, and possession of a valid driver's license, according to a list of job qualifications. Humphreys did not respond to requests for comment.

His personnel file shows Humphreys underwent a formal counseling session last June after a complaint was filed about the way he was driving a county vehicle. A document from the session said he "occasionally drives aggressively while operating county-owned motor vehicles."

"Driving complaints involving Mr. Humphreys are becoming more commonplace, averaging about one occurrence every 6 to 9 months, far more than anyone else in this section," the counseling session document said. The notice shows Humphreys signed off on it under duress.

Other documents in the file from the late 1990s indicate Humphreys got into loud arguments with co-workers. A performance review from January said Humphreys should address weaknesses in "the treatment of his subordinates." In a formal response, Humphreys said the rating "in no way reflects" his performance in 29 years with the county.

Humphreys' state driving record is clean, according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Jammers block radio communications by preventing devices such as cellphones from establishing and maintaining a connection. They can also interfere with first responder, police and other law enforcement communications, and Wi-Fi-enabled and GPS devices, according to the FCC.

Using or selling a jammer is against federal law, despite some marketers' claims, FCC spokesman Neil Grace said in a statement.

"While people who use jammers may think they are only silencing disruptive conversations or disabling unwanted GPS capabilities, they could also be preventing a scared teenager from calling 9-1-1, an elderly person from placing an urgent call to a doctor, or a rescue team from homing in on the location of a severely injured person. The price for one person's moment of peace or privacy could be the safety and well-being of others," Grace said in the statement.

Times staff writers Dan Sullivan and Jimmy Geurts and news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Hillsborough County human resources investigating employee fined by FCC for cellphone jammer 05/01/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 1, 2014 10:48pm]
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