Pinellas County deputy Michael Szeliga has made over 100 DUI arrests, taking potential drunks off the street and preventing countless accidents and loss of life. But when it came time for the four-year deputy to be recognized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, he was simply too tanked-up to be honored at his own award banquet.
Reports local NBC affiliate WFLA.com on Nov. 9: “Michael Szeliga packed a bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey, as part of his luggage, in his sheriff’s patrol car before driving to the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Hotel in Fort Lauderdale with two other deputies. They were there for two days of DUI law enforcement training. Szeliga was also supposed to receive a MADD award for making more than 100 DUI arrests. But alcohol got in the way.”
Wasted at an anti-drunk driving conference? Classy.
According to witnesses, Szeliga showed up to the July 24 event in Ft. Lauderdale “staggeringly drunk.” Earlier in the day, he was reported as being seen drinking by the pool and wandering about the hotel hallway in nothing but his boxers. At the banquet, he reportedly got into a verbal altercation with a superior, Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent. Szeliga was ordered to return to his room.
A 274-page report detailing the deputy’s drunken behavior has been assembled by the Internal Affairs division within the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
For his insubordination – and general idiocy – this deputy received one day off, completely paid. Critics say the suspension is a joke. “The plot thickens,” said former MADD director and anti-DUI attorney Tom Carey after hearing new details. “It seems to be a lot worse than originally presented.”
Adds WFLA: “Szeliga signed in and attended a morning session of the DUI enforcement training but left with two other deputies following the first break. He decided the training was no longer ‘relevant’ to him since he was transferring out of the DUI unit into a detective position. MADD required attendance at all training that weekend in exchange for picking up all the expenses of the conference.”
The deputy has since left the DUI Unit and is now a detective in the Crimes Against Children division.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at the time: “It was wrong, and again, one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard of. When I first heard about it, that was (what) my reaction was. ‘Come on, you’ve got to be kidding me. Really?’”
Szeliga wrote a letter of apology to Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent, according to the HuffPost.
“I addressed you in a disrespectful manner. And I displayed a lack of professionalism… Please accept this letter as my formal apology for my actions. I have learned from this experience and look forward to our interactions in the future.”
Maybe the pair can get together for a drink.