Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Turmoil continues in Hillsborough school bus system as more supervisors quit

TAMPA — Problems, accusations and resignations continue in the department that maintains buses for the Hillsborough County school district.

In recent days Willie Campbell, the administration manager for the transportation department, resigned, district officials said. Campbell, 58, joined the district in 1998 and was one of the highest-paid employees in the department at $85,900.

Tim Seidel, a fleet shop foreman, retired at 61 on April 1. Richard "Dewayne" Bethune, one of the repair shop supervisors, left soon after. Bethune, 51, said it was difficult to manage the mechanics who repair the district's 1,400 buses, and said he did not get support he needed from the district administration. Seidel said he faced similar issues.

Things are so contentious that on April 11, fleet manager James Kennett was accused of drinking on the job.

Kennett insisted he didn't, and never has in his career. District spokesman Stephen Hegarty confirmed that Kennett voluntarily took a breath test and passed.

Kennett said the incident began when he noticed that a mechanic, who has clashed with him and Bethune in the past, was standing outside for about 35 minutes.

"I told him he needed to get inside and get to work," Kennett said. About 45 minutes later, he said, transportation general manager John Franklin showed up at his office to follow up on a report he received from the security department.

"I demanded to go take a test right then," Kennett said, adding that he took and passed the breath test at a laboratory in Temple Terrace the district uses for its employees.

Campbell could not be reached for comment.

Seidel, who now works for a private truck company, said district officials are trying to rehire him, and negotiations are under way. But "there's hostility in the system with me coming back," he said. "There's people who refuse to change."

The district wants to hire Bethune back as well, Hegarty said.

The resignations come as School Board members continue to hold town hall meetings to discuss a broad range of problems in the transportation department.

The gatherings typically attract 40 to 80 employees, mostly drivers. They've complained about safety and personnel issues, often naming Franklin and sometimes Kennett.

Regardless of who is to blame, the conflict is taking its toll. "Even the good workers are acting like they want to give up," Kennett said, emphasizing that "most of the guys here are great. We just have a few who are not what they should be."

Multiple investigations are under way as the district conducts focus groups and sifts through the allegations.

A consultant's report is expected in early May. Among other things, the district is trying to replace some of its buses, which are among the oldest in the state.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

Turmoil continues in Hillsborough school bus system as more supervisors quit 04/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 22, 2015 10:51am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New Port Richey man dies after losing control of vehicle on wet roads


    A New Port Richey man was killed in a rollover crash Monday night after he lost control of his vehicle on wet roads.

  2. Forecast: Muggy, wet morning across Tampa Bay to make way for cooler, fall-like weather


    Tuesday morning starts off muggy and a little wet across Tampa Bay, but that will drastically change by the afternoon as a cold front moves through the region.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  3. Florida education news: Preschool, pay raises, teacher hiring and more


    EARLY EDUCATION: Hillsborough County school district officials prepare to add preschool programs to schools serving high-poverty communities, if they have open …

  4. Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith team up for hurricane relief concert in Tallahassee


    Sure, Tallahassee seems like a long way to drive for a concert. But when else are you going to see Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith share a stage?

  5. Iconic Key West marker restored after Hurricane Irma (w/video)


    KEY WEST — Artists have restored one of the most photographed tourism icons in the Florida Keys after it was damaged by Hurricane Irma.

    In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, artist Danny Acosta completes lettering the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.A. marker Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, in Key West. One of the most-photographed tourism icons in the Florida Keys was pummeled by Hurricane Irma on Sept. 10, stripping most of the paint and a large chunk of stucco. [Rob O'Neal | Florida Keys News Bureau via AP]