|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Tuesday, 10 January 2012 00:00|
Not everybody gets a second chance when they’re fired.
Not everybody can argue their case all the way to the top.
In this case the top was the Camp Verde Unified School District Governing Board. The man who was fired was school bus driver George Benigar, who lost his job in November after he said he refused to take part in a team-building exercise ordered by his superior, Stacey Barker, along with charges of insubordination when Benigar said he complained about it.
Benigar said he’s never been afraid to speak his mind when he disagrees with something, which many of the people who supported him in his effort to reclaim his job corroborated.
“[George] stands up for what he believes with a passion, which is sometimes misconceived as loud or negative,” wrote Jeff and Leila Jarrard in a letter of support. “George does not have a negative bone in his body. He believes things should be done by the book, safely and with respect.”
Benigar explained why he didn’t want to take part in the extra work he was asked to take home.
“I can’t be forced to do work if I’m not getting paid for it,” Benigar said.
The school district’s administration apparently though differently, and so did an attorney for the school board, who gave the opinion that since Benigar was an “at-will” employee, he could be fired at anytime “for any reason or no reason.”
Benigar took his argument to the school board after doing as much research as he could on the law.
Ultimately, Benigar agreed that he could be fired for no reason, but he asked the board to let him have his job back by declining Superintendent Dan Brown’s request for Benigar’s termination.
Brown said he was following proper procedure based on Benigar’s supervisor’s recommendation and that the district staff was working hard to create a particular type of environment and teamwork.
Benigar, along with several others who work with Benigar in the district’s bus barn asked the board to consider his job performance before allowing him to be dismissed.
“I have never engaged in unprofessional or unexceptionable behavior as alleged by Stacey Barker,” Benigar said. “And finally, I have never been insubordinate by refusing to comply with my supervisor’s directive to attend a meeting and training for bus drivers.”
Benigar, a former truck driver, said he’s always tried to be as professional as possible while making safety of the students his top priority.
Board member Judy Gilbert said the district pays teachers to attend training and all district employees should be treated equally.
“I have a problem with censoring employees for discussion,” Gilbert said. “Proper procedure may have been followed, but morally I don’t think it was correct.”
Ultimately, the motion to accept Benigar’s termination died for lack of a second. Benigar was back on the roads in a school bus before Christmas break.
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