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Top Florida law enforcement official sues DeSantis, alleging he was fired for blowing the whistle


(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — A former top law enforcement official in Florida is accusing Gov. Ron DeSantis and his top aides of forcing him to retire after he refused to carry out orders he says were illegal or inappropriate, according to a lawsuit filed overnight.

Shane Desguin, a career employee of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, rose to become the agency’s chief of staff. He alleges his retirement in November was actually a “wrongful termination” and was the result of him blowing the whistle on a host of issues, including violations of state public records laws, illegal orders to arrest demonstrators without probable cause and directives to obtain photos and personal information of migrants flown to the Sunshine State without legal justification.

“Despite his stellar work performance during his employment,” the lawsuit says, Desguin “was subjected to disparate treatment, different terms and conditions of employment, and held to a different standard because he reported Defendants’ malfeasance, gross misconduct and unlawful employment activities and was subject to retaliation thereafter.”

The lawsuit was filed in state Circuit Court in Tallahassee and names DeSantis and FDLE, long viewed as one of the nation’s premier state-level law-enforcement agencies. Desguin is seeking unspecified damages and names both FDLE and DeSantis as defendants.

DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern declined to comment, saying the administration would address the allegations in court.

Some of Desguin’s accusations have filtered into public view in recent months in the wake of his retirement and the subsequent firing of his former deputy, Patricia Carpenter. They are currently at the center of a separate lawsuit filed by the Washington Post, seeking records related to DeSantis’ travel while he was mounting an ultimately unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for president.

Politico reported earlier this month that both Desguin and Carpenter were investigated by FDLE and were found to have violated workplace rules. Prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges.

FDLE spokeswoman Dana Kelly told ABC News the agency “has not been noticed of this suit and we do not comment on any pending litigation. However, an internal investigation evidenced numerous acts of gross misconduct by Desguin….We are glad that our association with these bad actors (Desguin and Carpenter) has ended, considering the disturbing allegations that were substantiated after a thorough investigation.”

Both Desguin and Carpenter, according to the lawsuit, were subjected to an internal investigation built on bogus accusations, a “thinly veiled attempt at character assassination,” which occurred because they blew the whistle.

While he declined to comment on the lawsuit, Redfern on Thursday pointed to the findings of that probe and a previous comment by FDLE’s communications director, Gretl Plessinger: “Shane Desguin and Patricia Carpenter created workplace chaos, endangered the safety of other employees, and acted dishonestly and unprofessionally.”

Desguin’s attorney, Marie Mattox, said she had no comment beyond the complaint filed in court.

Desguin’s lawsuit says that when he was forced to retire last year, he received formal notification of his departure from the agency he joined in 2005 that said: “Retired. Not involving misconduct.”

The new lawsuit alleges that problems for Desguin began in late 2021, when Desguin was leading the agency’s Office of Statewide Intelligence and had been given new responsibilities in dealing with the influx of migrants who were being flown to Florida by the federal government.

Desguin alleges that DeSantis, through a senior official, ordered him to obtain “photographs, biometric data, and any other pertinent information by engaging with migrants at the airport. As these requests escalated, (Desguin) objected, and emphasized, on multiple occasions…FDLE could not legally conduct name checks, capture photographs, or compile intelligence files without a criminal predicate or reasonable suspicion, as those actions would be unlawful.”

The issue did not end there and, Desguin alleges, he continued voicing his concerns. When officials suggested transporting migrants out of Florida by bus, he told his superiors such a move could amount to “false imprisonment or kidnapping,” according to the complaint.

In September 2023, Desguin alleges a senior aide to DeSantis said the governor wanted him to make arrests at a demonstration of “neo-Nazis” in Orlando because it would have political benefit. Desguin allegedly pushed back, saying officers couldn’t arrest anyone simply for expressing their views.

According to the complaint, Desguin was told, “I don’t think you understand. If you look hard enough, you can find a way. The Governor [DeSantis] wants someone arrested today. He [Defendant DeSantis] will stand by you in any arrest.”

Ultimately, arrests were made, according to the lawsuit.

The end of Desguin’s career at FDLE, according to the lawsuit, came after weeks of internal discussions over the hot-button issue of releasing the agency’s records related to the governor’s travel as he tried to wrest the GOP nomination from former President Donald Trump. After having played a role in revising Florida’s public records law, Desguin alleges it was clear to him that DeSantis’ refusal to release the records violated the statute and its intent.

At the same time, an agency lawyer who was in line for promotion to oversee all agency records requests agreed with Desguin’s assessment and threatened to quit over the issue, according to the complaint.

The governor and his team, according to the lawsuit, directed FDLE to withhold the records and refused to allow the attorney who disagreed with them to be promoted. They also allegedly inquired whether the lawyer was a member of conservative legal organization The Federalist Society, implying that would help move the promotion along.

According to the lawsuit, Desguin went ahead and authorized a raise for the attorney despite the governor’s orders. That infuriated the governor’s office and Desguin was ordered to rescind the salary change. Then, he alleges, he and Carpenter were suspended.

He allegedly was forced to retire or he would be fired.

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