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Greensburg Salem School District lists 6 administrators who drew inflated retirement

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Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

After two days of refusal, Greensburg Salem School District on Thursday released the names of the six administrators whose base salaries — among the highest in the district — were inflated with unused sick days or health care benefits to boost their retirement checks.

The state Auditor General's Office spent a year reviewing the district's financial records and determined that $140,692 in ineligible compensation was applied for retirement purposes from 2005-11 and submitted to the agency overseeing the state's public school pension fund.

The Tribune-Review filed a Right to Know request seeking the employees' names on Wednesday morning, and administrators, school directors and their solicitor met privately that evening to discuss whether to release them.

“We are releasing the names because under ‘the Right to Know' you are entitled to this information, and we want to be transparent with taxpayer money,” Superintendent Eileen Amato said on Thursday.

The district also released the amount of ineligible compensation the state auditor general said was paid for the six administrators for retirement purposes:

• Tom Yarabinetz, superintendent, with $74,892 in ineligible compensation, retired in August 2011 at a salary of $173,452.

• Thomas Ferraro, business manager, with $21,000 in compensation, retired in January 2009 at a salary of $118,534.

• Thomas Shipley, director of secondary education, with $7,500 in compensation, retired in November 2011 at a salary of $145,000.

• Lee Kirchner, middle school principal, with $21,300 in compensation, retired in September 2007 at a salary of $104,573.

• Jeffrey Mansfield, elementary school principal, with $14,500 in compensation, retired in June 2009 at a salary of $104,684.

• Judy McMahon, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, with $1,500 in compensation, retired in June 2008 at a salary of $113,506.

A seventh, current business manager James Meyer, received $215 as a payment through a clerical error, according to the audit.

Auditors found that “senior administrators” forcibly ordered “subordinates” to report the ineligible payments, even though those employees warned that it was in violation of state retirement agency regulations.

Amato declined to identify which administrators ordered employees to make the payments.

“The names of the upper-level management as well as the employees' names who made statements (to the auditor general) are names I'm not going to be releasing,” she said.

Amato said state retirement officials told her that if the auditors' problems are confirmed, the former employees will have to repay the money in a lump sum or in payments.

The school district will have to repay the state for excess retirement payments the state made to the district.

The district may need to reimburse the state additional money because the overpayment caused the district to receive more in state subsidy than it was entitled to, Amato said.

Director Lee Kunkle said that earlier this year, he interviewed the “subordinate” staff members who were ordered to submit the inflated earnings.

“What I don't understand here, you have three individuals, three of our employees, went to senior administration about this and said ... you can't do this,” Kunkle said. “They got the (state retirement agency) book out, showed them, and they still ordered them to do it.”

“This whole thing, the way it went down, it totally disgusts me,” Kunkle said.

President Ron Mellinger and Director Angela DeMarino-Tooch confirmed Kunkle shared information that he had learned from the employees with them and other directors during a meeting.

DeMarino-Tooch said she is shocked that an administrator would not question the payments after three employees raised concerns.

“After the third (person), I would get legal counsel,” she said.

Auditors determined Yarabinetz's ineligible compensation involved $16,500 in unused sick days and $58,392 in compensation in lieu of health coverage. The auditor general's report included an error for Yarabinetz's sick day compensation, reporting it at $6,500, according to school officials.

Ferraro, Shipley, Kirchner, Mansfield and McMahon received a total $65,800 for unused sick days, according to the audit.

Shipley said he had no idea the payments were being made and did not order any employee to do anything improper.

“I was not aware of it, and nobody brought that to my attention,” Shipley said. “I would not tell an employee to do something that I think would be illegal, unethical.”

Ferraro, Kirchner, Mansfield and McMahon did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Yarabinetz said Thursday he didn't know who ordered employees to overlook the pension overpayments.

“They weren't ordered by me. I would not do anything like that,” Yarabinetz said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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