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Pasco school district: Odessa Elementary custodians left early, charged for full shift

ODESSA — Two Pasco school custodians face suspension and their supervisor stands to lose his job over allegations that they claimed to be working when they had already gone home.

Odessa Elementary School principal Teresa Love stumbled upon the situation last month while reviewing the school's alarm records. She noticed the alarm had been regularly set for the night at 8:30 p.m. for close to a year. Yet the night custodians' shift did not end until 9 p.m.

And that's what they claimed on their time cards.

Through video surveillance, campus spot checks and interviews, district officials quickly determined that the custodial staffers had claimed nearly 70 hours each in pay for work they had not done. The cost to the payroll: roughly $2,500.

"I didn't get any denial from any of the employees that it had been happening, and it had been going on for a long time," district employee relations director Kevin Shibley said.

Custodians Nick Dimitroff, 51, and Hernando Quevedo, 63, go before the School Board today for a one-day suspension without pay. They earn $8.45 per hour.

Shibley said it appeared they acted at the direction of assistant plant manager Joseph Primavera, 59, who faces termination Nov. 1. He earns $11.30 an hour.

"We hire them to do a job, and we expect them to work a specific shift," Shibley said.

Primavera said he has hired a lawyer and is talking with the district about his position. He declined to comment until those discussions were concluded.

"Your actions are unacceptable and constitute a theft of time and money from the district," superintendent Heather Fiorentino wrote in a termination letter to Primavera. "As the assistant plant manager of Odessa Elementary School, you were placed in a position of trust.... Your actions have broken that trust and raised serious concerns about your judgment and professional ethics."

While Fiorentino acknowledged the supervisor's role, she had pointed words for the custodians, too: "I still expect each of the district's employees to recognize the difference between right and wrong and to report activity like this to an administrator as soon as you become aware of it."

A third custodian, Azucena Caceres, 77, escaped suspension after explaining she thought she was allowed to leave early because she had not taken breaks during her shift, Shibley said.

The School Board can overturn Fiorentino's recommendations if it disagrees.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614.

Pasco school district: Odessa Elementary custodians left early, charged for full shift 10/17/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 17, 2011 10:47pm]
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