Ex-Florida law enforcement official says he was forced to resign for defying illegal DeSantis orders

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered illegal surveillance of immigrants and ignored concerns that relocating them from Texas to another state could could be considered kidnapping or false imprisonment, the former chief of staff at the state's top law enforcement agency said in a whistleblower lawsuit.

DeSantis also ordered the arrests of neo-Nazi demonstrators who weren't breaking the law, former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Chief of Staff Shane Desguin said in a lawsuit filed this week in Leon County Circuit Court.

Desguin said the administration retaliated against him with an internal investigation that claimed he had a sexual relationship with a subordinate and recklessly pointed his unloaded gun at a coworker in an impromptu lesson on how to defend against an armed attacker.

The investigation happened as a result of Desguin reporting violations of rules, regulations or laws and malfeasance, and his forced resignation was retaliation for failing to comply with those orders, the lawsuit said.

DeSantis' office pointed at the internal investigation mentioned in the lawsuit when asked about the lawsuit. Spokesman Jeremy Redfern sent The Associated Press a post he made on X after news reports about the lawsuit.

“This guy was under a formal investigation, which revealed that he pointed his firearm at somebody in his office,” Redfern said on X. “If I did that while in the military, I would’ve been court-martialed..”

DeSantis ordered the state to fly nearly 50 migrants from Texas to to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, two years ago. The flight made a brief stop in Florida. The action spurred a lawsuit and a criminal investigation amid claims the migrants were misled and not told where they were going.

Desguin claimed in his lawsuit that the DeSantis administration floated the idea of busing immigrants from Texas to Florida before flying them to Massachusetts, and he raised concerns the operation would be illegal.

But DeSantis' chief of staff, James Uthmeier, said “it was imperative to complete at least ‘one flight’ of the migrants from Florida to another state,” the lawsuit said, adding that Uthmeier said he could be fired if the order wasn't carried out.

Last year, Uthmeier's temporary replacement, Alex Kelly, called Desguin and said DeSantis wanted neo-Nazi protesters in Orlando arrested. Desguin replied he couldn't arrest anyone for exercising their First Amendment rights, the lawsuit said.

“I don't think you understand,” Kelly told Desguin, according to the lawsuit. “If you look hard enough, you can find a way. The governor wants someone arrested today.”

DeSantis continued pressuring for an arrest despite being told arrests would be unconstitutional. After several days, the department began making arrests for illegally attaching a banner to a highway overpass.