BOCA GRANDE, Fla. — A Florida community is rallying around a former toll collector who was fired from a job he held for nearly 30 years.
Vladislav “Sam” Samsonov, 77, a toll collector at Boca Grande Causeway in Florida, said he was let go last week after his bosses found out he had paid a driver’s toll, according to WBBH.
Samsonov told the station when he found out he’d undercharged a trailer driver, he paid the difference out of his own pocket. It wasn’t the first time the collector had provided fares for drivers; he said he’d previously paid out of his own pocket when drivers said they didn’t have enough cash.
“In my eyes there was no crime committed; I just helped somebody out,” Samsonov said.
Samsonov told WBBH he was told before not to pay drivers’s fares, but was never formally written up. But in the latest incident the man said the toll authority told him he was being demoted from five days a week to two days a week. When he declined, Samsonov was terminated.
“If I can’t be trusted for five days, how can I be trusted for two days?” Samsonov said.
According to WBBH there was an outpouring of support for Samsonov after his termination. Many drivers said the toll collector was a kind man and a fixture in the community.
“My son, he would go over there and Sam would always give him lollipops and give the dogs bones and stuff like that. This doesn’t sit will with me, what happened,” said driver Jason Rice said, who said he would see Samsonov in the toll booth almost every day.
Blanche Vedette , a Boca Grande business owner who would see Samsonov on her commute to work, told WBBH, “He would always give dog bones to the dogs and say hi to them. Ask how our daughter was doing. He was like extended family,
The Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority, for whom Samsonov worked, did not respond to the station for comment.
Samsonov’s friends and family say he is current exploring legal action to see if any state laws were violated in his termination.