Manatee school board OKs firing

Judge had ordered termination of cafeteria manager

ataylor@bradenton.comMarch 15, 2011 

BRADENTON -- Former cafeteria manager Joyce Taylor nearly curried enough favor from school board members Monday to sidestep an administrative law judge’s decision to terminate her from her job with the district. But she didn’t garner enough support.

In a tight 3-2 vote, board members upheld the administrative law judge’s recent decision against Taylor despite objections from her attorney and one school board member. The decision called for the school district to terminate Taylor -- a request originally made by Schools Superintendent Tim McGonegal in October.

McGonegal said Taylor was rightfully terminated without pay because she “failed to report reasonably suspected child abuse; disclosed the identity of a person who reported (the) reasonably suspected child abuse; and was dishonest” during an investigation into the matter, according to a school report.

Taylor requested an administrative law hearing in order to keep her job. It was later determined that there was no child abuse, according to Taylor’s attorney, Peter Lombardo.

“In her mind, she did not feel this was child abuse,” Lombardo said about his client. “Every school board employee -- if they see anything on their children -- they better call the abuse hotline.”

The administrative law judge disagreed. Recently, the judge ruled in favor of the school district, saying “petitioner has established by a preponderance of the competent, substantial, and more credible evidence that there is just cause for Respondent’s termination,” according to the administrative judge’s order.

School board members were scheduled to approve or disapprove the judge’s order at Monday night’s board meeting. McGonegal recommended approving the order. School board member Julie Aranibar was troubled by the case.

“There’s a lot to be learned after reading through this,” Aranibar said about the Division of Administrative Hearing case.

“We are not here to re-litigate the facts,” school district attorney Scott Martin said to board members.

Board members Robert Gause, Karen Carpenter and Harry Kinnan voted to approve the judge’s order. Aranibar and Barbara Harvey voted against.

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