Public School Teacher Who Hired Hitman to Kill Colleague Should Have Been Fired 10 Years Ago

An economics teacher at Bloomingdale High School in Hillsborough County, Florida, has been charged with offering an undercover cop $2,000 to kill a fellow educator. Despite the severity of the charges against him, James Pepe is now on paid leave pending a decision by the school board to fire him. 

The source of Pepe's contempt for colleague Bob Meredith is a mystery. Meredith's lawyer told The Tampa Tribue that his client "doesn't have a clue why another teacher wanted him dead." Pepe told police that "He and Meredith were best friends and had a falling out. He also claimed Meredith was spreading rumors that he was a child molester." To quiet those alleged rumors, Pepe offered a friend $5,000 to kill Meredith. The friend instead contacted the police, who sent an undercover officer Pepe's way. Several taped phone calls and a reduced price later, Pepe was arrested for soliciting murder. 

Even more perplexing than his beef with Meredith is the fact that Pepe wasn't fired years ago. The Tampa Bay Times reports that: 

During teacher training at Tampa Bay Technical High School in 2001, [Pepe] railed about the administration. He was "hostile," "aggressive" and "extremely volatile." A colleague said she was concerned for her safety.

"They can't get me," Pepe had bragged. He called his principal a "pathological liar" when she addressed him. Coming after 10 years of erratic behavior, this seemed like the last straw.

But instead of firing Pepe, as then-Hillsborough County superintendent Earl Lennard recommended, the district sent Pepe to anger management classes and reassigned him to Gaither High School.

From there he moved on to three more high schools. At one, he accused the principal, faculty and maintenance staff of loading him up with the worst students, denying him equipment and deliberately cutting off the air-conditioning in his room.

Pepe's colleagues and supervisors in the Hillsborough County School System believed he posed a danger to them and to their students. The investigation into Pepe's hunt for a hitman--which revealed he considered hiring a former student with behavioral problems and was fine with the murder occuring on campus--proved them right. These revelations prompted Tampa Tribune columnist Joe Henderson to ask,

What, exactly, does it take to get fired in this school system?

Short of allegedly offering undercover cops $2,000 to have another teacher murdered, I mean.

In the world where the rest of us live — a place with which Pepe doesn't seem to be familiar — he would have been handed a cardboard box years ago and told to hit the road.

In Hillsborough County, though, Pepe moved through five different high schools. He was pulling in more than $58,000 a year. That's a pretty nice wage, especially in this economy. That doesn't include more than $24,000 in back pay he received after he was reinstated following that 2001 meltdown.

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  • R C Dean||

    That is outrageous. I thought paid leave for conspiracy to commit murder was a perk of the police union, not the teacher's union.

  • SugarFree||

    The thread may now be shut to comments. Nothing else will surpass this.

  • ||

    Who made you King of HR?!?

  • T||

    We had a vote, and you lost. Democracy trumps all, remember?

  • ||

    Only when I win does it trump all! When I lose, it's totally dysfunctional!

    Oh wait, sorry, I just kind of went into some sort of TEAM haze there.

    Fine, can I at least be Princess of the PM Links?

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    No - Le Tribe, c'est moi, et LE TRIBE HAS SPOKEN!

  • SugarFree||

    Pretty Princess Polly Pinkheart, the loveliest commenter in all the land.

  • ||

    And BP and JW can be my handmaidens. And Warty can be my horse! Oh, this is fun!

    (claps hands)

  • Generic Stranger||

    ...so you're modeling yourself after Catherine the Great?

  • BakedPenguin||

    **sigh** Always a handmaiden, never a lady-in-waiting...

  • JW||

    I was promised scribe!

  • ||

    Silence, both of you! Go prepare my girdle!

  • Hyperion||

    I thought that Fluffy was king of H and R?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Like most sovereign titles, it's inherited though familial lineage. But since HampersandR hasn't really been around long enough for multiple generations, they just picked the most inbred regular commenter.

  • ||

    That makes perfect sense. Does that make you the court jester, Hugh?

  • Hugh Akston||

    No way. Tulpa's way funnier than I am.

  • ||

    Aren't court jesters supposed to be intentionally funny?

  • Hyperion||

    I vote for Joe Biden as court jester.

  • ||

    I repeat: aren't court jesters supposed to be intentionally funny?

  • Generic Stranger||

    Not necessarily:

    Distinction was made between fools and clowns, or country bumpkins. The fool's status was one of privilege within a royal or noble household. His folly could be regarded as the raving of a madman but was often deemed to be divinely inspired. The 'natural' fool was touched by God. Much to Gonerill's annoyance, Lear's 'all-licensed' Fool enjoys a privileged status. His characteristic idiom suggests he is a 'natural' fool, not an artificial one, though his perceptiveness and wit show that he is far from being an idiot, however 'touched' he might be.
  • ant1sthenes||

    Why do you think the police were so keen to shut it down?

  • Lyle||

    Democrat America.

  • db||

    I always wonder, under what circumstances is it appropriate to fire an employee when he is charged with a crime?

  • R C Dean||

    Its a facts and circumstances type of deal, IMO. What's the crime, what's his position, etc.

    The janitor gets charged with drunk driving? Who cares?

    Your CFO gets charged with wire fraud? Out the door.

    A teacher gets charged with conspiracy to commit murder on a school campus? Gee, tough one.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The standard for terminating employment is not the same as for conviction. If he's exonerated--not just found not guilty but generally believed to have been innocent, then you can always offer him employment again. From the facts at hand, though, I'm finding it hard to see any reason he shouldn't be terminated. With extreme prejudice.

  • db||

    Sometimes it seems pretty clear cut, such as in this case. I'm talking about situations in which the charges are murkier and firing could result in severe hardship to a questionably innocent employee.

  • T||

    At a previous employers, we fired people when they couldn't show up for work for the appropriate amount of time. The fact that they were in jail for, IIRC, dealing weed and couldn't bond out was kind of irrelevant from an HR perspective.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Human resources perspectives are always irrelevant.

  • T||

    Good HR people keep you from losing the inevitable wrongful termination lawsuits. Bad HR people generate additional lawsuits.

  • sarcasmic||

    Unless there is something in the union contract that explicitly forbids hiring undercover cops to kill people for the sum of two thousand dollars, no fucking way can he be fired!

  • Bardas Phocas||

    Note: he was hiring someone to kill a member of the union. I'm pretty sure that's the main difference.

  • SugarFree||

    sarc is meta-commenting on some stupid dunphy shit from a few weeks back.

  • R C Dean||

    There ya go. I'm sure they all agree not to cause or encourage anyone to leave the union, so greasing a union member would be a no-no.

    Dead union members may vote, but they don't pay dues.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Its fine if he has higher seniority.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Paid leave? Say, um, I'm paying for that leave. I'd prefer that my tax dollars not go to people who should've been fired the instant evidence was presented that they were attempting to murder a coworker.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    I would isolate all employees involved from duties until it could be sorted out. I don't want to have a vindictive prick going around getting people fired.

  • Aresen||

    I'm torn on this one.

    He was (allegedly) plotting to kill another member of the Teacher's Union, after all.

    We gotta look at the potential upside here.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, it's not like his pogrom succeeded.

  • Ted Levy||

    "An ECONOMICS teacher...Several taped phone calls and A REDUCED PRICE later..."

    Say no more...

  • toddb||

    The real question is was he an Austrian or Keynesian?

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Public school economics teachers are pure state-fellators. They don't actually know things like "Austrian" and "Keynesian". They know all of us fit in a government made system and that is all that matters.

  • Romulus Augustus||

    What do you want to bet that everyone who posts here (even our trolls) know more about economics than this clown?

  • Generic Stranger||

    They left out half of his title. The other half was "Home".

  • BakedPenguin||

    "...as to supply and demand, we may argue whether it is the top or bottom blade of the scissors that cuts the paper, but either will do if you stick it in that guy's eye."

    - Alfred Marshall Pepe.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...Pepe offered a friend $5,000 to kill Meredith.

    Apparently this one's not getting "shitty" pay if he can afford to shell out that kind of money for something any idiot Floridian could do himself.

  • pmains||

    He wanted it to be done inconspicuously. By an invisible hand, if you will.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Job well done.

  • Hyperion||

    He doesn't look at all like a disgruntled union thug.

    In the world where the rest of us live — a place with which Pepe doesn't seem to be familiar

    Umm, he's living in unionized public .edu land. What does that have to do with the real world?

  • Brett L||

    I have to run before the PM Links, but I'll just leave my fun Florida news here.

    An unidentified man was detained by Tallahassee police today at the Lake Ella American Legion after he hugged Arizona Sen. John McCain during his speech and punched a wall before being ushered outside.

  • ||

    I wish he had hugged the wall and punched Arizona Sen. John McCain.

  • ||

    ...deliberately cutting off the air-conditioning in his room.

    In Florida this is a basis for a self defense claim.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Somewhat off-topic. But school related.

    Send the sick kiddies to school, we need the money

  • Hyperion||

    One mother says asking sick kids to come into school just so they can get paid is unacceptable.

    I sure hope it is more than one parent that would find this unacceptable, like all of them.

    Someone who was responsible for this letter is a major league retard. Not surprised at all though from public schools.

  • Hyperion||

    after he hugged Arizona Sen. John McCain

    Ewww!

  • SugarFree||

    I bet it's like hugging an enormous owl pellet.

  • carol||

    Sheesh, if you're going to kill someone show some balls and do it yourself.

    Seriously, we have the worst schools in the country here in Hillsborough County. I went to a school board meeting last month and those people are absolute idiots.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I wouldn't go that far, but I agree that the administrators are extra bad, as a rule.

  • Hyperion||

    and those people are absolute idiots.

    And I bet you can't find even one of them that doesn't vote Democrat every time.

  • SugarFree||

    No one said that idiots can't be self-interested.

  • ||

    You need to chill the fuck out, P Brooks Jr.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Dude's #1 problem - anything less than $20K for a hit ain't gonna buy you silence.

    TRUST me on this one...

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Looks like a gym teacher. Which is pretty much the same level of teacher as a high school economics teacher.

    Anyway, I don't think he should be fired unless he is found guilty. Only cops should be fired like that.

  • ||

    To me it seems that the United States really is emulating the Asian countries all liberals say our education system should become like. In Japan, all elementary and middle school teachers work for sort of a county board of education ("sort of" because it is called a city, but we would think of it more like a county), and the high school teachers work for the prefecture. But very few teachers ever get fired. Teachers are typically rotated to a new school every 2-7 years, and only if they have really put in the time and made it to assistant principal or principal status do they begin to approach the full 6 or 7 years.

    But there are some bad teachers who may even do illegal things that don't get fired but just rotated to a new school. The unfortunate thing is that good teachers that the students really respond to also could be moved any year.

  • John Thacker||

    That's different from the US. In the US, the good teachers stay at the good schools with the parents who have political pool. Only the bad teachers get rotated around until they end up in the crappy schools for poor kids.

    However, all the connected parents take pride in the fact that they'd never pay extra money to send their kids to a better school, unless that tuition also came with a nice lawn and countertops.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Pepe sounds like the sort of guy who will spend his remaining years in the prison law library filing fraud suits against the police department, so there is a silver lining.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "...as to supply and demand, we may argue whether it is the top or bottom blade of the scissors that cuts the paper, but either will do if you stick it in that guy's eye."

    - Alfred Marshall Pepe.

    Awesome.

  • BarryD||

    $2000? What a cheap bastard!

  • ant1sthenes||

    I'm going to have to disagree with Reason here. If they had straight up fired him, he probably would have shot up the school.

    Each school system really needs to run one truly shitty inner city school (where only the truly violent and irredeemable kids are sent) as a threat to hold over the heads of teachers. Sure, we can't fire you, you can just keep phoning it in until you retire. But instead of the rubber room, we're sending you to Oz. You can collect your massive unearned pension if you survive. Good luck, asswipe.

    Failing that, I guess we could just (as part of rehabilitation, you know) send shitty teachers to actual prisons.

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