Former Florida law enforcement official claims wrongful termination, accuses agency and Gov. Ron DeSantis of retaliation

A former top official for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is accusing the agency and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of retaliating against him after he disclosed alleged misconduct by them.

Shane Desguin says he was forced to resign from his job as chief of staff last year after he refused to comply with “directives” he felt violated the law or were inappropriate, according to a whistleblower lawsuit filed this week in Leon County Circuit Court.

He also accuses DeSantis and FDLE officials of violating the privacy rights of migrants, withholding public records and calling for the arrests of neo-Nazi protesters in what Desguin argued would have been a violation of their First Amendment rights.

“(Desguin) was subjected to disparate treatment, different terms and conditions of employment, and held to a different standard because he reported Defendants’ misfeasance, malfeasance, gross misconduct and unlawful employment activities and was subject to retaliation thereafter,” the 16-page lawsuit states.

“FDLE 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,” FDLE said in a statement to CNN.

“As evidenced by the findings of this investigation (which included the testimonies of dozens of employees), Shane Desguin and Patricia Carpenter created workplace chaos, endangered the safety of other employees, and acted dishonestly and unprofessionally.

“This included sexual harassment, workplace discrimination, and brandishing a firearm inside an office. We are glad that our association with these bad actors has ended, considering the disturbing allegations that were substantiated after a thorough investigation,” the statement said.

Desguin supervised Carpenter and the pair were also involved in an extramarital relationship, according to an FDLE Internal Affairs report from May 2024.

Beginning in September 2021, Desguin alleges he was ordered multiple times over a six-month period by DeSantis’ “public safety czar” Lawrence Keefe and other administration and FDLE officials to get “photographs, biometric data, and any other pertinent information by engaging with” migrants arriving in Jacksonville, Florida, on US government-chartered flights from the US southern border.

Desguin says he objected, and on numerous times told Keefe that he worried carrying out such an order was against the law, according to the complaint.

“FDLE could not legally conduct name checks, capture photographs, or compile intelligence files without a criminal predicate or reasonable suspicion,” according to the lawsuit.

As a result, Desguin claims he experienced a “strain” in his work relationship with Keefe.

Keefe “conveyed that failure to comply with his directives would result in adverse consequences,” the lawsuit says.

Desguin also raised potential false imprisonment or kidnapping concerns when DeSantis staff officials discussed relocating migrants outside of Florida, the lawsuit says.

In August of 2023, Desguin claims DeSantis’ staff pressured the FDLE to arrest neo-Nazi protesters in Orlando, Florida.

DeSantis, who was running for president at the time, wanted those protesters arrested under a new law that prohibits people from projecting images onto a building or property without permission, according to the lawsuit.

Desguin said the FDLE could not arrest a person for simply participating in First Amendment-protected activity.

In response, Desguin said DeSantis’ Chief of Staff Alex Kelly told him, “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,” according to the lawsuit.

Desguin said DeSantis and other officials continued to press for an arrest over the objections of FDLE employees who argued they could not arrest someone simply because DeSantis “desired it.”

In September 2023, the FDLE and the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) announced the arrest of a 48-year-old man for hanging swastikas and other antisemitic banners on a bridge.

Also, last fall, Desguin and other FDLE officials began to disagree with DeSantis’ team about the release of the governor’s travel records.

They were eventually informed that none of the governor’s travel records would be released. Desguin, along with FDLE counsel Janine Robinson, disagreed and said withholding the records was a violation of the law.

Robinson threatened to resign over the issue and was eventually denied a promotion and a pay raise, according to the complaint. CNN reached out to Robinson for comment.

Shortly afterward, Desguin was placed on administrative leave.

Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for DeSantis, did not respond directly to any of the allegations raised in the lawsuit.

Instead, Redfern provided CNN with a 129-page FDLE Internal Affairs report from May 2024 that found Desguin and Carpenter created a hostile work environment for others. In one instance highlighted in the report, Desguin allegedly handled a firearm in his office during a defensive tactics demonstration and pointed it at Carpenter.

Marie Mattox, the attorney representing both Desguin and Carpenter, claims Desguin was forced to retire and told CNN the Internal Affairs report was completed after her client separated from FDLE.

Desguin’s affidavit of separation said the reason for his separation was retirement and that it did not involve misconduct. The complaint states that the allegations against Desguin were sent to the State Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution, but they declined to bring charges.

“If you look at the time line, it is clear that both FDLE and DeSantis doubled down on him after he left to smear his good name. They really have no choice but to try to cast doubt on his character because they cannot defend the charges that he made on the merits. So what do they do? They point the finger at him AFTER he was cleared of wrongdoing,” Mattox said in a statement to CNN.

In a phone call to CNN, Mattox also denied accusations included in the Internal Affairs report that Desguin created a hostile work environment by pointing a gun at Carpenter during a demonstration. She said, “It never happened, nothing even remotely close to that incident took place.”

According to Mattox, Carpenter is also a whistleblower and was fired with no reason given just days after her whistleblower complaint. Mattox said Carpenter is expected to file her own lawsuit soon.

Desguin is requesting a jury trial, compensatory damages, legal fees and job reinstatement.

CNN reached out to Lawrence Keefe and Alex Kelly for comment.

This story has been updated regarding the source for the allegation of an extramarital relationship between Shane Desguin and Patricia Carpenter.

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