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Taxpayers won't foot $5,000 Tampa hotel bill for board members

Published:   |   Updated: February 10, 2014 at 09:36 AM

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BROOKSVILLE - The school board voted 3-2 last week not to attend conferences in Tampa and stay in hotel rooms for $135 a night at taxpayers' expense.

Collectively, residents would have paid up to $1,000 per night for school board members, the superintendent and assistant superintendents to stay in hotels about one hour from Brooksville.

The money would have come out of travel accounts already budgeted, according to a copy of the measure, and between the eight officials it is estimated they will receive about $5,000 in lodging reimbursements for the remainder of the year.

If the policy ever was extended later to include additional staff, the financial impact would be significantly greater, a copy of the proposal says.

Nightly rates booked one month in advance for $135 would have included the Tahitian Inn and Spa, and a Ramada and Holiday Inn near downtown, according to booking site

Board members Matt Foreman and Cynthia Moore were among the majority to opposed the measure, saying board members already receive a salary and should not be compensated for hotel rooms when other employees are not.

"I don't necessarily approve of board members to be included in it," Foreman said. "The way it's carved out is not for me."

The school board's standing travel reimbursement policy specifies: "when travel is beyond a distance of 50 miles, based on the Florida Department of Transportation map mileage, the cost of lodging may be reimbursed."

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the board voted to transfer Assistant Superintendent Ken Pritz from district offices to a temporary assignment in Plant Operations.

Pritz has appealed the transfer and litigation is pending.

The board also voted to suspend West Hernando Middle School language arts teacher Erin Cougill without pay after an investigation found she was under the influence of alcohol during work hours.

Cougill appealed Romano's recommendation that she be fired, and the school board forwarded the decision to the Division of Administrative Hearings to determine an appropriate course of action, district documents show.

Her suspension began Wednesday, according to district documents.

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