A Florida community is rallying around a local toll collector, saying that he was fired unjustly for paying someone else's toll.
Vladislav "Sam" Samsonov had been collecting the toll at the Gasparilla Island Bridge, which takes motorists into Boca Grande, near Fort Myers, for nearly 30 years.
He's known to have treats on hand for dogs, and lollipops for the kids.
"After 29 years, you can't help it. I gave children suckers 20 years ago," the veteran told NBC-2 "Now I'm giving those children suckers for their children."
But it all came to end when he was fired last week after accidentally undercharging a driver and paying the difference out of his own pocket.
"He broke the rules by putting $5.50 into the cash register from his pocket after he realized he missed a trailer being pulled by a vehicle and wanted his register to balance with the axel counts and was caught on tape putting money from his pocket into the register," his daughter, Patricia Samsonov Gillis, wrote on Facebook.
Since the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority told the NBC station it does not comment on personnel matters, it's not clear if that's the true reason he was let go.
What is clear is that the firing has upset many in the community, who have launched a Facebook page to show their support for the toll taker and posted messages for Samsonov on their own pages as well as those of the local media.
It's not everyday that people like a toll collector so much they have their own photos of him to share, but that has been the case with Samsonov.
Samsonov's daughter said she had been sharing the messages posted online with her father.
"I called him this morning to read your comments to him and he was tearing up," she wrote.
She also said that he wasn't fired immediately, but was instead offered the option of working two days a week.
He refused the offer.
"If I can't be trusted for five days, how can I be trusted for two days?" he told the NBC station.
The local Boca Beacon newspaper printed a farewell to Samsonov:
"You represent part of what so many like about Boca Grande – a person can be gone for years, but once they cross that bridge they’re back in the land of familiar faces. It’s people like you that we took for granted would always be there in the booth on weekday mornings."
While some are calling for Samonsov to get his job back, his daughter indicated he was ready to move on.
"Please know that this is Sam's second retirement after also having been in the military for 26 years and he is well taken care of with benefits," she wrote. "As we spoke yesterday, he stated he would reach out to the local hospital to become a volunteer a few days a week to keep him busy."
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