A Florida police officer to be honored by the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving showed up drunk to collect his award.
So wasted, according to an internal affairs investigation, that he was found wandering in a hotel hallway stripped to his underwear. He also was described as “staggeringly drunk” by a witness at the Friday night banquet where he was slated to receive the MADD accolade.
The officer was packing too — packing whiskey.
Records obtained by two Tampa TV stations show that Michael Szeliga, a deputy from neighboring Pinelas County, packed a bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey in his patrol car before driving across the state to the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Hotel in Fort Lauderdale with two other deputies.
The incident report described how police chief Robert Vincent encountered the sauced-up officer outside the banquet and suggested it was not appropriate to attend. “That led to ‘disrespectful’ comments, which prompted Vincent, who commands the Gulfport police, to tell one of Szeliga’s supervisors that the deputy was ‘wasted.’ ”
“I thought, ‘Hmm, probably not the right place to be intoxicated,'” Vincent told WFTS. “I asked if he would tell me his name, and he said he wasn’t going to tell me his name and I said well you probably don’t want to be at a MADD awards banquet while you are intoxicated. He didn’t take my advice — he kind of just walked away, so I reported that to his supervisor. When you recognize someone who is a police chief in your home county who says you are too drunk to be going to a MADD conference and you ignore that, blatantly that’s just not right.”
And it gets worse.
Michael Szeliga, the allegedly drunk officer, was ordered to his room for the night, but returned the following morning to attend a a session on DUI training. Szeliga left with two other officers after the morning break, having decided it wasn’t “relevant” for him.
Szeliga told investigators he then returned to his hotel room, poured himself a few whiskey and Coke cocktails and headed down to the pool area with the two other deputies, who had also skipped the training. Szeliga said, according to WFLA’s reporting, that one of the other deputies had also brought a bottle of Crown Royal for the weekend.
As evening approached, the report continued, a sergeant who runs the DUI squad in neighboring Pasco County reported seeing Szeliga in the hotel hallway, drunk and wearing “nothing but boxer shorts.”
Szeliga declined to comment to the media.