School Board rejects demotion, wants risk manager terminated

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The fate of suspended School District Risk Manager Gerry Koziel remains up in the air after the Indian River County School Board unanimously rejected the superintendent’s recommendation to demote him.

Koziel remains on paid administrative leave after an investigation found probable cause of sexual harassment and other policy violations.

Schools Superintendent Dr. Harry La Cava told the School Board that he would take their considerations under advisement and come back with another recommendation.

“I do the best that I can,” La Cava told the board, adding, “This is never an easy decision to make and one where, really, you’re in a no-win situation.”

School Board members expressed disappointment in La Cava’s recommendation to demote Koziel, pointing to the in-depth investigative report the School Board Attorney’s Office released.

In that report, the School Board Attorney’s Office determined that there was probable cause that Koziel had sexually harassed a contract vendor under his supervision and had violated several School District policies.

Such policies include tampering with public records by changing the vendor’s invoices and delaying payment on at least one invoice, according to the report.

“Let’s decisively resolve the issue and move forward,” School Board member Claudia Jimenez said, supporting Koziel’s termination rather than demotion. “The School District should feel no responsibility to keep this individual on staff.”

School Board member Karen Disney-Brombach, who pulled the recommendation off the consent portion of the evening’s agenda, told her fellow board members that they had only two options – accept La Cava’s recommendation or reject it.

She said the School Board Attorney’s report was something they could choose to believe or not.

“If we do (believe), common sense tells me that a demotion would not cure the situation, just relocate it,” she said.

School Board Attorney Usher “Larry” Brown told the board that if La Cava were to change his recommendation from a demotion to termination, there would be a process it would have to follow. Part of that process would be to give Koziel 14 days to request an administrative hearing prior to being terminated.

He suggested that, as an annual contract employee, the School District could decline to rehire him at the end of his contract this year.

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