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Pasco County bans horseplay among workers after pellet gun tomfoolery

SHADY HILLS — Just after Christmas last year, a county worker saw a man throwing out two toy pellet guns at the dump.

The guns were broken, but the worker figured his kids might like them. So he put them in his lunch bag.

Later that day, back at the county maintenance trailer, he pulled out the guns.

" 'Look what I found today,'" the worker, Mike Cossett, would later write. "Everyone took a look, examined and discussed them."

That set off a chain of events the next day between equipment operator Peter Dawood and supervisor John Dilandro. It led to a county personnel investigation, a Sheriff's Office investigation and a county edict banning horseplay on the job.

But it's hard to say exactly what happened in what one worker summed up as "the case of John shooting Peter."

Consider the written statements provided to the county personnel department:

Cossett: Peter and John were goofing around. John shot Peter in the leg or at the table and it bounced and hit his leg. I wasn't looking so I didn't see exactly.

Dawood: (John Dilandro) loads the BBs into the gun and says "Kill shot," then shoots me in the leg. After I pleaded with him not to point the gun at me.

Cossett: They were both joking and laughing. Then it was 7 a.m. So it was time to go to work.

Dawood: Before leaving for the day at 5 p.m. in the trailer at Shady Hills, (Dilandro) tried to shoot me again. So I ran out of the room. When I came back in and sat down he pointed it at me again. I tried to leave and Jason Wellman, who was sitting next to me, held me and says, "Hurry up. Shoot him again."

Dilandro: We took shots at a plastic bottle to see if it worked.

Rodger Wolford, equipment operator: John shot Peter and Peter said "ouch."

Mark Tilwick, heavy equipment operator (interview with personnel officials): There was a lot of joking and playing around in the break room as usual. He heard Peter scream out in pain.

Harold Coffin, equipment operator: So Peter took the gun from John and starting hitting John in the knee pretty hard, that I could hear it from across the room.

Dawood: Everybody laughed. Ha Ha, that must hurt. I said, "Yes, it did." I walked over to John, grabbed the gun and smacked him on his knee and said, "How's that feel? Because mine hurts 10 times more than that."

Dilandro: Peter doing his normal screwing around played with the gun, whacking me in the knee. He said he was hit in the knee, while laughing and joking around.

Wellman, equipment operator: (Dawood) was fine afterwards and it seemed not to bother him. He and John still talked and joked after the incident and everyone was fine then. There was nothing that was negative about it.

Kevin Slattery, equipment operator (interview): There was a lot of noise and laughter in the room. He did not see John shoot Peter in the leg because he was reading the newspaper.

• • •

County personnel director Barbara DeSimone investigated, interviewing workers and collecting the written statements as well as the pellet in question: A plastic bead the size of a garbanzo bean.

She said she couldn't ascertain what happened due to the conflicting stories. "It wasn't clear who hit who first," she said.

No one was punished, and the county just posted a new memo reminding everyone that horseplay isn't permitted.

The Teamsters union isn't happy with that outcome. The Teamsters told county officials that the incident constitutes a hostile work environment.

Dawood told officials that his leg got infected. He filed a report with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating.

Meanwhile, workers told county officials that the fun was over.

"We don't joke or kid around anymore," Wellman said in his statement. "Come in, do our job and keep it business."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.

Pasco County bans horseplay among workers after pellet gun tomfoolery 02/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 11, 2011 8:14pm]
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