Vladislav Sam Samsonov, 77, is a veteran Florida tollbooth collector who, after 29 years of being employed at the Boca Grande Causeway, was fired for paying a customer’s $5 toll.
According to a Facebook fan page dedicated to Samsonov with over 4,000 likes, the former military man was always smiling, handing out lollipops to kids and bones to dogs while on the job.
Samsonov told a local NBC news station:
“After 29 years, you can’t help it. I gave children suckers 20 years ago. Now I’m giving those children suckers for their children.”
The Boca Grande Causeway is located in southwestern Florida and is the only land link from Charlotte County to the three barrier islands known as North, Cole and Gasparilla Island.
Last week, Samsonov accidentally charged a trailer too little, so when he realized his mistake, he paid the $5 owed for an extra axle out of his own pocket. He said it was something he did from time to time if a driver did not have the cash.
There had been verbal warnings previously issued to Samsonov about his illicit generosity, but according to NBC, he was never issued any formal write-ups. “In my eyes there was no crime committed, I just helped somebody out,” Samsonov said.
The Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority assessed the situation and decided that Samsonov was no longer capable of working five shifts a week. They dropped him down to part-time and scheduled him only twice for the following week.
The news came as a shock and an insult to Samsonov. He said:
“If I can’t be trusted for five days, how can I be trusted for two days?”
Samsonov refused part-time employment, and the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority took his objection as grounds for dismissal.
Contacted for a response to Samsonov’s situation, GIBA Chairman Ginger Watkins told Boca Beacon:
“Cash toll collection in the booth must balance to the video record and toll category system in the accounting department. If an accurate record is not achieved on a shift, attendants have been personally corrected and policies restated to all personnel. Both the executive director and the accounting manager have discussed with attendants and sent memos to the effect that if the dollar amount does not balance, the policy is to admit the mistake and reconcile the mistake with accounting … the action of personally funding or withdrawing cash to make it correct before it is turned into accounting is considered fraudulent by the auditors and a terminable offense by GIBA.”
Samsonov’s family is currently looking into the situation to see if any illegal actions took place during the process.When Samsonov was asked how he felt about the outpouring of support he’s received, he said:
“Makes me feel good, makes me want to almost cry.”
According to Samsonov, he wasn’t working for the money but rather for the people he ran into regularly, who he called “family.” He said he is now thinking about getting involved with a nonprofit organization or program where he can meet and be around people.