TAMPA — A Tampa police officer who was fired in May after he spent hours drinking at a topless bar while on duty with his partner has been reinstated.
Tampa police administration rescinded Antonio Ortega’s termination and instead gave him a 50-day unpaid suspension, the longest the department has ever issued, said Laura McElroy, a spokeswoman with Tampa police. Ortega has been back on duty since July as a Tampa police uniformed officer working evening patrol, she said.
Ortega had been an undercover officer at the time of the incident.
Tampa police attorneys told police administration that Ortega stood a good chance of getting his job back in arbitration because he thought his partner, Master Police Officer Paul Madsen, was logging them off duty, McElroy said.
Madsen told Ortega he was going to the unmarked car while they were at the Penthouse Club, 1801 N. West Shore Blvd., to log them off duty, but instead he logged them in as being on duty, McElroy said.
Both men spent more than six hours at the club on Nov. 9.
Ortega “didn’t realize he was on duty when his shift started,” McElroy said. “Ortega believed they were off duty.”
Ortega had been with Tampa police 10 years and didn’t have a prior incident, said Owen Kohl, an attorney for the Tampa Police Benevolent Association.
“We were very happy that the city chose to rehire him,” Kohl said. “Tony is a good officer.”
Madsen, who worked for Tampa police for 23 years, was fired and won’t be reinstated, McElroy said.
Though Madsen won’t be rehired, his status was changed from terminated to resigned after he filed a grievance, Kohl said.
The change in status won’t affect Madsen’s pension, which he would have been eligible to receive anyway even after he was fired, Kohl said.
“Officers that worked with Paul would say he was a good cop,” Kohl said,. “He was a good cop. He just made that one mistake on that day.”