Appeals board upholds former deputy’s firing

A former Osceola County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was taken off patrol after causing a fatal crash can’t return to the agency, an appeals board ruled Monday.

Gloria Boccio was stripped of her badge and was assigned to administrative work at the Sheriff’s Office sub-station in Poinciana while Florida Highway Patrol investigated the October 2018 vehicle fatality.

She was terminated in October 2019.

Boccio ran a red light and rear-ended a pickup truck on U.S. Highway 192 driven by Robert Johnston, killing the 34-year-old Clermont man who was on his way to work at Disney World, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report. He died at the hospital.

The force of the crash pushed Johnston’s truck into a van, which then hit another car.

Weeks later, Boccio was involved in another crash in her patrol car – a 2018 Dodge Charger – that time on State Road 417.

In the crash that killed Johnston, FHP cited the woman for careless driving and for not wearing a seatbelt, and her driver’s license was suspended.

A Sheriff’s Office investigation found that Boccio’s brakes were not faulty at that time of the accident, as she had claimed.

The investigation also found that she violated department policies and that her inability to control her vehicle reflected deficiency in her ability to do her job.

Investigators found that in the 18 months Boccio worked as an Osceola County deputy, she had been involved in a total of five reported traffic crashes, three of which she caused.

Boccio first started work as a 911 dispatcher at the Sheriff’s Office in August 2014. She was sworn in as a deputy in May 2017, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

“Nothing that I set out to do was supposed to make the agency look bad, that was not my intention,” Boccio told the appeals board, made up of Sheriff’s Office employees.

A representative for Boccio also spoke at the hearing Monday and questioned the agency’s decision to put her back to work just a few weeks after the fatal 2018 crash.  

“Maybe the better course of action would not to have brought her back so quickly or if she was brought back so quickly maybe not put her behind the wheel,” the man told the board, according to a recording of the hearing broadcast by WFTV.

Boccio asked the appeals board if she could come back to the agency, not as a deputy, but in another capacity.

But the panel rejected her request and upheld her October termination.

In a settlement reached in January 2019, Osceola County agreed to pay Johnston’s family $200,000, the maximum allowed under Florida law unless otherwise approved by the state Legislature.

The Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Boccio is scheduled to get her driver’s license back next month.

Johnston’s brother, Brian Johnston, has publicly criticized both Boccio and the Sheriff’s Office.