The West Las Vegas school district is keeping its options open on how to deal with an employee who has been charged with totaling a district vehicle while driving drunk.
Meanwhile, an anti-DWI activist is questioning the district’s handling of the case.
West Superintendent Jim Abreu said Monday that he wanted to talk with school board members and the district’s attorney before making any decisions on the employment of John J. Roybal, 41, a mechanic who got into the accident on Aug. 5 in the Moriarty area.
The West board plans to meet on Thursday, and Abreu expected the members to discuss Roybal’s situation behind closed doors.
On Friday, the Torrance County Sheriff’s Department charged Roybal with DWI, reckless driving and failure to maintain a traffic lane.
Abreu called Roybal a good person and employee, saying the accident was out of character for the mechanic.
Roybal has remained on the job, and the administration hasn’t placed him on any kind of leave since the crash. Abreu acknowledged that the district had disciplined Roybal, but he wouldn’t give any details, other than to say that Roybal no longer can drive district vehicles.
Abreu said the district is looking closely at its policies to see how they apply to Roybal’s situation.
“We want to be careful,” he said.
According to a Torrance County Sheriff’s Department report, Roybal and another man, David J. Solano, 42, were outside the totaled West Las Vegas vehicle when a deputy showed up. It wasn’t immediately clear who was driving the car.
The seat-belt bruises on the two men indicated that Roybal had been behind the wheel, the report states. But Solano, who works for RV Transportation, a Las Vegas school bus contractor, told the deputy at first that he had been driving. Then Solano, who has a prior DWI, changed his story to say that Roybal had been behind the wheel.
The deputy, Ron Saavedra, said the confusion over who was driving caused a delay in the investigation. He also said that Roybal had been so drunk, it was hard to believe that he could have been driving and gotten so far. Both men had been to a bar and then a strip club the night of the accident. They were in Moriarty for training.
Las Vegas resident Ray Collins, who lost five family members in a DWI accident more than three years ago, said West should be tough on drunken driving. He noted that his daughter, Renee Collins Gonzales, who died in the crash, worked for West Las Vegas as a nurse.
“If any school system should have learned from what happened, it should be West Las Vegas,” said Collins, a retired West principal. “West Las Vegas has to treat this as if (Roybal) did hit someone.”
Collins, who has gone to the state Legislature to push tougher DWI laws, also referred to Abreu’s statements that Roybal was a good person. He said that he heard good things about Dana Papst, the drunken driver who killed five members of the Collins-Garcia family.
“I don’t know him (Roybal). Dana Papst was a nice guy, too, from my understanding. He was well liked, and look what he did,” Collins said. “When you are under the influence of alcohol, it takes over your body.”
He said if Papst would have survived the crash, he is sure the defense attorneys would have argued that Papst was a good person.
“Being a nice guy doesn’t mean anything when you have a car that is a weapon and you are under the influence. There have to be consequences,” he said.
Collins said the district should make public any type of punishment against Roybal.
Abreu said he would listen closely to what Collins has to say.
“I have great respect for him,” he said.