Reports: Middleburg teacher had run-ins with embattled Waldo police chief

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ORANGE PARK, Fla. - According to two reports obtained by Action News, a teacher from Middleburg High School had two run-ins on the road with Waldo Police Chief Michael Szabo.

The incidents, according to the report, took place months apart in 2012.  The first incident happened on May 2012 in Clay County, outside of Szabo's jurisdiction in Waldo, which is in Alachua County.

The 38-year-old teacher told deputies a dark SUV came up behind her on Filmore Street and the driver briefly activated red and blue emergency lights.

The woman told investigators the driver then spoke to her over a PA system, threatening to pull her over if she didn't slow down.

The woman gave dispatchers the license plate number.  The SUV came back registered to Szabo, according to the incident report.

Clay County Lt. K. Wagner wrote in the report that Szabo claimed he was responding to an alligator complaint in Waldo.  Wagner later learned that was not the case.


Waldo police officers say chief forced them to write tickets


Five months later, the same high school teacher reported a second incident involving Szabo.  According to the report, the woman said while driving to work the driver of a dark blue SUV shined a spotlight into the rear window of her car, blinding her.

The woman said the SUV followed her briefly.  And as she came up to a stop light at Blanding Boulevard and Ridgecrest, she noticed the same SUV in front of her, according to the report.  The woman said the SUV came to a sudden stop in the middle of the road, about 100 yards from the red light.  The woman said she had to slam on her brakes to avoid hitting the SUV.  The woman gave dispatchers the license plate number, which matched the SUV from the incident in May.  She also identified the driver as Chief Szabo, and mentioned she had a similar incident with him in the past.

Investigators questioned Szabo about the incident.  The police chief said he shined his spotlight into the car because the car had dark tint.  He also said he hit his brakes because the driver behind him was driving 63 mph.  Chief Szabo also said, according to the report, the driver was a man.

Szabo is now under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.  The FDLE is looking into claims Szabo implemented an illegal ticket quota.

City leaders suspended Szabo last month for violating police policy after officers complained they were forced by him to write tickets.  Waldo is one of only two AAA-designated "traffic traps" in the country.

Szabo's suspension is indefinite, pending the results of the multiple investigations.

Waldo's interim police chief  is also on administrative leave.  Fellow officers claimed Cpl. Kenneth Smith installed city-owned surveillance equipment for personal use and improperly stored evidence.  The claims are the subject of a second FDLE investigation.

The Alachua County Sheriff's Office entered into a memorandum of understanding with the city of Waldo.

Captain Steve Maynard will take over as Waldo's interim police chief for as long as he's needed during the FDLE investigation.  His salary will be paid by the Alachua County Sheriff's Office. 


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