TAMPA — A Hillsborough County School District substitute teacher was charged Wednesday with possession of methamphetamine, which deputies said they found in his vehicle at the middle school where he was teaching.
James Tobin, 54, of Tampa, was arrested Wednesday afternoon at Davidsen Middle School, 10501 Montague St., Tampa.
He was initially wanted on an arrest warrant for possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana less than 20 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies arrested him at the school after receiving information he was going to be substitute teaching that day.
After his arrest, deputies searched his vehicle and found methamphetamine, said Debbie Carter, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman. He was then also charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The original arrest warrant was issued after the sheriff’s office went to Tobin’s home, 11266 Windsor Place Circle in Tampa, to serve a search warrant on Saturday. The sheriff’s office had received a tip of possible drug activity.
No one was home when deputies arrived with the search warrant, Carter said. Deputies searched the home and found methamphetamine and marijuana, according to the sheriff’s office.
Investigators contacted Tobin and told him an arrest warrant would be issued if he didn’t turn himself in, Carter said. When Tobin didn’t respond, the arrest warrant was issued Monday. When deputies learned he would be at the school, they arrested him there.
Tobin remained in a Hillsborough County jail on Thursday, with bail set at $5,500.
Tobin’s attorney, Brian Gonzalez, said the amount of drugs found in Tobin’s home and car are minimal.
“This is not a drug dealer,” Gonzalez said. “We’re talking less than a gram in his vehicle found at the school. “He’s not a danger to children. There was no threat to the safety of our children in our community.”
Tobin was arrested in 2006 and 2009 on DUI charges. Gonzalez said Tobin pleaded guilty to one DUI charge and the second charge was reduced to reckless driving.
Gonzalez said Tobin has been substituting for about a year. Before substituting, he was the former chief executive officer for Prevent Blindness Florida, a St. Petersburg-based non-profit.
Gonzalez said the sheriff’s office didn’t need to arrest Tobin at the school.
“I already talked to law enforcement and said we would surrender him when they issued a warrant,’’ Gonzalez said. “He didn’t need to be arrested at school. That didn’t need to happen.”
The sheriff’s office said deputies followed standard procedure for dealing with an arrest warrant.
“We picked him up like we would anyone that there’s an active warrant for their arrest,” Carter said.
Tobin was working at the school through Kelly Educational Staffing, which the district contracted with at the beginning of the school year to hire substitute teachers.
Steve Hegarty, a school district spokesman, said Kelly Educational Services has prospective substitute teachers undergo a fingerprint or background check, just like the school district did when it hired substitute teachers.
Tobin’s DUI arrests would not have disqualified him from being a substitute teacher when the district was in charge of hiring, Hegarty said. However, charges involving drugs would not allow him to teach, he said.
“Kelly (Educational) Services would do the same exact checks that we would do,” Hegarty said. “They did exactly what we did.”