Driving costs firefighter

BROOKSVILLE –
Traffic violations are nothing new to David Freda.

Neither is having felony charges dropped, according to court records.

His perceived tendency to drive with disregard to traffic laws has cost him the privilege of driving ambulances for the Brooksville Fire Department — at least until January.

He is a firefighter-paramedic employed with the city, but the ambulances are off-limits because they are owned by the county.

Freda, however, is allowed to drive city-owned vehicles, including the brush truck.

Furthermore, he has been prohibited from driving Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department vehicles.

The former chief there wrote emails to county attorneys last summer telling them Freda, who has been a volunteer there for the past few years, should be allowed to drive.

The former chief was overruled.

Freda’s driving record is littered with infractions, but he’s avoided his fair share of penalties.

In March 2005, Freda’s felony charge of knowingly driving with a suspended license was dismissed in Hernando County Circuit Court.

Eight months earlier, prosecutors dropped burglary and theft charges against him, according to the court’s website.

“The sooner we get him off the road, the better,” wrote Cheryl Marsden, the county’s director of administrative services, in an email five months ago to Hernando County Fire Chief Mike Nickerson.

Brooksville Fire Chief Tim Mossgrove defended Freda.

He said the firefighter has maintained a clean driving record recently and has been a “model employee” since he was hired last December.

“I have had no issues with him,” said the chief.

Since 2004, the 25-year-old Freda has received scads of traffic infractions, mostly in Hernando, but also in Pasco, Citrus and Hillsborough counties, according to records obtained from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

He received tickets for unlawful speed twice in 2004 and four times in 2005.

Freda was nabbed for careless driving and operating a vehicle with no proof of insurance in 2007 and was ticketed once more that year for unlawful speed in Citrus.

He completed driving school in 2005 and 2007.

Another speeding ticket came in 2008 in Hernando.

Ten months ago, he was ticketed for a seatbelt infraction.

In August 2008, he failed to pay a toll in Hillsborough, according to the same DMV records.

His license was suspended almost three years later as a result of that failed payment.

Cristi Charlow, risk management coordinator with the county, wrote in an email to Nickerson earlier this year that Freda’s license was suspended for only 10 days before it was reinstated.

Nonetheless, enough red flags were raised.

“My opinion is that we deny him to drive county vehicles at this time,” Charlow wrote in June. “In January 2012, if he has kept a clean record, we can reassess his driving status. He has been habitual since 2004 and hasn’t even had a driver’s license for 10 years.”

Charlow also stated in the same email that Spring Hill Fire Rescue rejected Freda’s application.

A subsequent email by Nickerson stated the county’s insurance provider wouldn’t insure Freda, but the city’s provider did.

Freda’s employment evaluation earlier this year was favorable. Aside from a suggestion to show more initiative, his superiors listed no criticisms, according to his personnel file at city hall.

“I’m the type of person that will not forget the struggle I’ve had to get hired,” Freda wrote in his application.

The Springstead High School graduate completed all of his training requirements locally.

Former Hernando Beach Fire Chief Steve Knowlton called him a “dependable and hard worker.”

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