Make us your home page


Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Hillsborough district denies it violated maintenance worker's rights



No one violated George Olmo's First Amendment rights - nor did the Hillsborough County school district break any rules in firing him, the district argued in a legal motion this week.

In its first response to Olmo's federal lawsuit, the district argues that the suit failed to cite an appropriate statute in alleging constitutional violations.

What's more, attorney Thomas Gonzalez wrote, Olmo's lawsuit "failed to demonstrate that his conduct involved a matter of public concern warranting any First Amendment free speech protection."

Olmo, a former maintenance worker for the district, is alleging the district played politics when it fired him for giving candidate petitions to cafeteria workers at Leto High School in January 2012. The petitions were in support of Susan Valdes, a School Board member often at odds with Superintendent MaryEllen Elia. He sued in July.

The district sought an extension before filing its response, a 22-page document that makes the following arguments:

1. Olmo cannot file an Equal Protection claim under the 14th Amendment because he has not demonstrated the district had any discriminatory motive.

2. Olmo's firing was not wrongful because he had access to due process. He went through the grievance procedure, and the School Board upheld the firing. He could have sued in state court, but did not.

3. While Olmo is alleging his free speech rights were violated, Gonzalez writes that the school district has the right to act, and act quickly, if that speech carries the potential to be disruptive. Specifically, the district was carrying out a policy that is designed to keep politics out of the workplace.

4. If Olmo's message was a matter of public concern, he might have a point. But Gonzalez points out that Olmo was simply voicing support for Valdes as a candidate.

Gonzalez wants the suit to be dismissed.

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 10:53am]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours