BROOKSVILLE — Roseann Delvalle had no choice but to admit that she broke a gasoline pump at the Hernando School District's maintenance depot and then lied about it.
A surveillance camera captured Delvalle driving a district van up to the pump in November and then driving away, dragging the fuel nozzle and hose behind her.
The 56-year-old food and nutrition assistant at Springstead High School returned, replaced the nozzle and told an employee who was later sprayed with gas that the nozzle was broken when she got there. District officials confronted her with the video footage the next day.
Accidentally breaking district property is in most cases a minor offense, but lying about it and putting other employees in danger is grounds for dismissal, superintendent Bryan Blavatt decided.
An administrative law judge, however, has agreed with Delvalle, who argued that firing her was too harsh.
Tuesday, the School Board approved a settlement that will reinstate Delvalle but suspend her without pay for 60 days. She must also reimburse the $142 required to repair the pump, and she will not be required or permitted to drive a district vehicle.
The terms of her suspension already have been met because the board voted in February to suspend her without pay when she informed the district she was fighting Blavatt's decision. The 60-day mark arrived in early May, so she will receive back pay for the rest of the missed work days. She returns to work today.
Delvalle certainly erred by breaking the pump and not immediately reporting it, Judge W. David Watkins wrote in a recommendation to the district after hearing the case in June.
"However, her failure to take appropriate action and to immediately acknowledge her mistake was the product of her fear and panic," Watkins wrote. "While that is not a defense of her actions, it provides context, and it is understandable given her frightened mental state."
The district can mete out punishment on a case-by-case basis and should consider Delvalle's unblemished disciplinary record, Watkins wrote.
He recommended the sanctions the School Board approved Tuesday. School boards are not bound by law to follow an administrative law judge's recommendations but usually do.
Delvalle joined the district in 2005. She earns $11.45 per hour or $9,532.13 per year.
She could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Her attorney did not return a message left at his office.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.