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Ringgold official sees no humor in 'joke'

Jeremy Sellew | The Valley Independent
Ringgold School Board President Mariann Bulko, right, and Director Charles Smith, standing left, are seen in a heated argument during a special meeting of the board on Thursday, September 5, 2013.

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Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 12:51 a.m.

In an emotion-filled Ringgold School Board meeting Thursday, a director defended himself after a “poor attempt at humor.”

After he was seen at a meeting last month removing money from an envelope containing football season tickets, director Larry Mauro answered comments by colleague Maureen Ott.

Late in the meeting, Ott expressed concern about rumors of financial impropriety by an unnamed school director.

“If there were anything at all that was underhanded with that, obviously, I don't think a normal person would disclose monies publicly like that on the table,” Mauro said after Ott inquired about the incident. “I apologize for that attempt at humor. It was in poor judgment.

Mauro said he provided a written explanation of the situation to Superintendent Dr. Karen Polkabla, “in the case anyone thinks there is something else going on.”

Mauro said he has also provided a copy of the explanation to his personal attorney.

Mauro said the accusation also involves a district employee.

“I think this better stop now, because someone is going to be held liable for something,” he warned.

“I'm not making any accusations,” Ott quipped. “I'm trying to get an explanation.”

“Well my explanation ... if you want to read what Dr. Polkabla has, you can do that.” Mauro said.

Ott wasn't finished.

“So far, I'm not understanding your explanation,” she said.

“Well I'm done explaining it to you. Obviously you don't understand,” Mauro replied.

“Obviously. I guess I'm really stupid, so ... you're going to have to help me,” Ott countered.

“I'm done helping you,” Mauro countered.

Director Charles Smith joined the discussion.

“You're not stupid at all. You're a very intelligent person,” he told Ott. “But what you are is political. ... I just think you're political, that's all.”

Mauro said that during the incident last month, some directors were aware of the joke.

Ott claimed otherwise.

“If someone were trying to buy favors from a person ... who would do that and why would they do that?” Mauro asked. “To me it's ridiculous.”

Mauro continued, accusing board President Mariann Bulko of starting a rumor involving him, but she interrupted.

“There was no rumor started, and I've already consulted my attorney. So watch what you say,” she told Mauro. “At no time did I accuse you of anything. I never said your name or accused you of anything.

“You have three people here that are denying your story. No one mentioned your name or said anything. The only thing that I'm saying is, that when you look like you're on the take, if it looks like a duck and it talks like a duck ... it might be a duck!”

As a heated exchange ensued, Smith accused Ott and Bulko of playing politics.

Polkabla intervened.

“(Board member Gene) Kennedy has relayed to me that he has seen you do this before,” Polkabla told Mauro.

Ott asked other board members, including Director Chris Carroll, if they had seen an incident involving Mauro, season tickets, an envelope and money last year. They all responded “no.”

“I would like to say that, for the record, I'm not satisfied,” Ott said later. “Pulling a joke like that puts your ethics into question, and this whole thing ... it doesn't pass the smell test.

“I believe you have a responsibility to the public to act in a responsible manner.”

District business

Earlier, the board agreed allow Geokinetics, a geophysical service company contracted by EQT, to place seismic testing equipment and receivers on district property relative to oil, gas and mineral deposits.

The process will not involve invasive testing such as using explosive charges.

The agreement includes $1,000,000 in insurance covering the district and expires in one year.

The district will be paid $796.78. Geokinetics will identify where and what devices will be placed on school property. Work will take place Saturdays and Sundays.

Mike Brazil, contract permit agent for Geokinetics, said geophones, which pick up seismic activity, will be on the property along with sensors and cables.

They should be on the property for approximately three weeks, he added.

In other business, the board authorized Polkabla and Solicitor Tim Berggren to petition the Washington County Court of Common Pleas to have Danielle Adrian (Ringgold Elementary North), Jeffrey Gillen (Ringgold Elementary South), and Christopher Moody (Ringgold High School) appointed as school police officers.

If approved, they will have full police powers on school property.

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2667.

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