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Osceola School District disputes former school board member's unemployment benefits claim

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. - A former Osceola County School Board member whose name became synonymous with controversy is still stirring up outrage, even though she was voted out of office a few months ago.

Cindy Hartig claims her election defeat was a dismissal and now she wants to collect unemployment.

A former Osceola County School Board member whose name became synonymous with controversy is still stirring up outrage, even though she was voted out of office a few months ago.

Cindy Hartig claims her election defeat was a dismissal and now she wants to collect unemployment.

Hartig's tumultuous tenure as a member of the school board came to an end last fall when she ran for re-election and lost. Now, state records show, she's filed for unemployment.

Rejected in October, she refiled in December and was approved. The state's notice says simply, "Benefits are payable because claimant is unemployed."

The Osceola County School District got a copy of the state's determination letter  two and a half weeks ago. Within a week, the district filed an appeal, asking the state to cut Hartig off, and force her to pay back any money she's been given.

The district said, "Cindy Hartig was not an employee ... she was an elected official, who was not re-elected by the voters of Osceola County."

When Channel 9's Mark Joyella stopped by Hartig's Kissimmee home, no one answered the door. Real estate records show the house has been on the market. There was a large moving container sitting in the driveway.

Hartig earned $35,000 as a school board member, and the state has approved up to $275 a week in unemployment. That, the school district said, is money she doesn't deserve.

The school district's appeal said, "The school district did not and could not hire or discharge Ms. Hartig; did not and could not discipline Ms. Hartig; did not and could not exercise control over...her work...or direct her work … therefore she is not entitled to unemployment compensation benefits."

The school district declined to comment on the story, citing the pending appeal.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity could take up the appeal this week.