NO DUE PROCESS
Broward Sheriff’s Sgt. John Goodbread was in his doctor’s office in Florida for a routine physical sometime in 2003 or 2004 when he felt the pain in his lower back.
“He had me do one of these exercises as part of the physical, bend over type of thing, touch your toes, see what your range of motion,” Goodbread would later tell police. “As I was bending over, I stopped because the lower back just seized up.”
The doctor issued Goodbread a prescription for hydrocodone. It was the first of many pain prescriptions from several doctors that would result in a criminal case against Goodbread.
In March 2011, a detective in Palm Beach County got a tip suggesting that Goodbread and his then-wife, Heather Goodbread, “may be involved in doctor shopping” — a practice in which someone seeks the same or similar prescriptions from multiple doctors, according to a summary of the case later included in the arbitrator’s ruling.
Criminal investigators began looking into the allegations that Goodbread and his wife had obtained prescriptions from four doctors’ offices, court records show.
On April 8, 2011, Goodbread and his wife were arrested and eventually charged in state court with trafficking Oxycodone and withholding information from a practitioner, both felonies. The couple’s arrest made local headlines, and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office suspended Goodbread without pay.
“I was completely caught off guard,” Goodbread, a former narcotics officer who has consistently maintained his innocence, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Somebody else had used my name to get those ’scripts. I had nothing to do with anything.”
In April 2012, his wife pleaded guilty to withholding information from a practitioner and was put on probation under an agreement that withheld an adjudication of guilt. She would later testify during her husband’s arbitration hearing that she was the one who had called in prescriptions in her husband’s name and that he had not been aware of her scheme. She eventually completed her probation, court records show. Neither she nor her attorney could be reached for comment.
In January 2013, Goodbread pleaded no contest to one count of withholding information from a practitioner under an agreement that deferred criminal prosecution. He was ordered into a pretrial intervention program, which he completed in a matter of months, and the case was dismissed.
The Broward Sheriff’s office fired him.
The local police union appealed. The union argued that the department had not conducted a full internal affairs investigation but instead had relied on evidence gathered during the criminal probe. Therefore, the union argued, Goodbread’s firing had been based on “hearsay.”
“His wife had admitted to misrepresenting herself to get the medication,” said Michael Braverman, the attorney who represented Goodbread. “But the department didn’t give [Goodbread] even the most minimal amount of due process.”
In a Dec. 20, 2013, ruling, arbitrator Robert Hoffman sided with the union. He concluded that there had not been an adequate internal investigation by police and that Goodbread had been denied due process.
Hoffman acknowledged that Goodbread’s participation in a diversion program could be considered conduct unbecoming an officer, but the arbitrator did not think it merited his firing, given the inadequate internal affairs probe.
“Lesser discipline could result if the record did not contain serious due process concerns,” he wrote.
Hoffman ordered Goodbread reinstated with back pay. In a video on Facebook, Goodbread thanked the police union for helping him get his job back.
Goodbread told The Post that without arbitration, he would still be out of a job for something he did not do. “Have I seen it where the arbitration process may not work perfectly? Sure,” Goodbread conceded. “But it’s there to protect the rank and file . . . . Basically, it’s our union looking out for us to make sure that we don’t [get] wrongly terminated.”