Settlement allows most fired troopers to return to State Patrol

Twenty four Georgia State Patrol troopers fired for allegedly cheating on speed detection test were offered their jobs back Monday following a settlement deal.
Twenty four Georgia State Patrol troopers fired for allegedly cheating on speed detection test were offered their jobs back Monday following a settlement deal.

A cheating scandal later recast as a misunderstanding is nearing its end after the state reached a settlement with 26 fired Georgia State Patrol troopers. As part of the deal all but two of the troopers were offered their old jobs back.

In a joint statement with the ex-troopers’ attorneys, (full text below) the Georgia Department of Public Safety denied any legal liability, adding it “seeks to move the Georgia State Patrol past this dispute and avoid years of contentious litigation.”

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The November 2020 lawsuit claimed the troopers, whom the GSP alleged had cheated on a radar detection exam, were actually whistleblowers fired for exposing breaches in protocol during their training. Two months later, Georgia’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Council completed an exhaustive audit of the GSP’s training system that cleared all but one of the 32 fired troopers.

The POST investigation focused on the troopers’ intent and found they shared answers and referred to their textbooks during the exam because they believed their instructors had asked them to do so.

“There was no intent to do anything improper,” POST Executive Director Mike Ayers told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in February.

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The DPS acknowledged that the POST audit played a role in their decision to seek a settlement, reached after two mediation sessions. Their statement, said the agency, serves as “public recognition” that the troopers were entitled to restitution. The 26 defendants will collectively receive $850,000 and their offers of reinstatement include several months of credit for future promotion.

About half of the troopers are leaning towards resuming their old jobs, though that number could change, said co-counsel Douglas McMillan.

“When we started this we had a bunch of people with very hard feelings towards (the GSP),” he said. “But I have to say the state made a real effort to set things right and (our clients) took note of it.”

In the end, said McMillan, both sides were eager to put the matter behind them.

“It is the desire of all parties involved, that this joint press statement will aid in bringing closure and healing to a stressful, emotional, and extremely difficult time,” the joint statement concluded.

In a recent interview, one of the fired troopers, 32-year-old Daniel Cordell, said he wasn’t sure whether he’d return to his old job if offered. He said he held some lingering resentment over the way he and his classmates were depicted by the GSP.

“It still stings,” Cordell said. “It didn’t have to happen.”

The state patrol previously said the episode cost the agency $2 million, including revenue lost when 133 traffic citations issued by the troopers were tossed.

An internal investigation by the GSP’s Office of Professional Standards, launched soon after an ex-girlfriend of one member of the 106th class told the agency she had taken her boyfriend’s test for him, ultimately concluded that virtually everyone who took the exam had cheated. GSP head Mark McDonough dismissed them all and, two weeks later, announced he was taking an early retirement, at Gov. Brian Kemp’s request.

Here’s the complete joint statement from the Department of Public Safety and the attorneys representing the former troopers.

A settlement has been reached in the lawsuit brought by twenty-six (26) Troopers, who graduated from the 106th Georgia State Patrol Trooper School Class, but were subsequently terminated based on allegations of cheating on a radar/lidar test during Trooper School. The Troopers, by and through their attorneys, Eric L. Gay, of the Law Office of Eric L. Gay; William M. Shingler, Jr. and Douglas R. McMillan, of Shingler & McMillan, LLC; and Benjamin L. Wright, Jr. of Rainwater, Gibbs and Wright, LLP, filed a Complaint for Violation of the Georgia Whistleblower Protection Act, in November 2020. As a result of mediation, the Trooper-Plaintiffs and their attorneys will receive an eight hundred, fifty-thousand-dollar ($850,000.00) monetary settlement, along with offers of reinstatement for twenty-four (24) of the twenty-six (26) Troopers, with several months of credit towards promotion. The settlement was reached after two full mediation sessions with mediator A. Lee Parks. While the Department of Public Safety denies any legal liability, the Department of Public Safety seeks to move the Georgia State Patrol past this dispute and avoid years of contentious litigation, especially after the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (P.O.S.T.) cleared the Troopers of cheating on the radar/lidar test. The Department of Public Safety, Georgia State Patrol, and Office of the Attorney General for the State of Georgia, as well as the attorneys and the Troopers involved in this settlement are making this joint press statement for public recognition that the Department has adopted the POST Council findings, compensated these Troopers, and offered reinstatement with the Georgia State Patrol. It is the desire of all parties involved, that this joint press statement will aid in bringing closure and healing to a stressful, emotional, and extremely difficult time. The Department will not comment further on the terms of this resolution.

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