Greensburg Salem superintendent to identify those behind pension spikes
By Bob Stiles
Published: Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Greensburg Salem's superintendent said she will name the “senior administrators” who allegedly ordered the school district staff to pad the salaries of six former administrators to boost their retirement checks.
Eileen Amato said legal issues have delayed the release of the names of those responsible for the nearly $141,000 in overpayments.
“I can't predict the date,” Amato said. “It's in the (state) agencies. It depends on the outcome.”
The state Public School Employees' Retirement System has sent letters detailing the overpayments and possible remedies to all six administrators, an agency official said on Thursday.
In a report released last month, the state Auditor General's Office charged that “senior administrators” forcibly ordered “subordinates to report the additional benefit payments as qualified earnings,” even though those subordinates told them that doing so was against state pension regulations.
Auditors combed through district records for a year before issuing the report. They looked at the retirement accounts after receiving a tip about a potential problem, agency spokeswoman Susan Woods said.
The auditor general did not name the administrators, the employees who said they were ordered to make the payments or the person who tipped the agency to look at the retirement accounts. Her agency doesn't release the names of people involved in an audit, Woods said.
Last month, the school district released the names of the six administrators after the Tribune-Review filed a Right to Know request.
The six combined received $140,907 in ineligible compensation, either for unused sick days or for health care coverage, according to the audit:
• Tom Yarabinetz, superintendent, $74,892 in ineligible compensation, retired in August 2011 at a salary of $173,452.
• Thomas Ferraro, business manager, $21,000 in compensation, retired in January 2009 at a salary of $118,534.
• Thomas Shipley, director of secondary education, $7,500 in compensation, retired in November 2011 at a salary of $145,000.
• Lee Kirchner, middle school principal, $21,300 in compensation, retired in September 2007 at a salary of $104,573.
• Jeffrey Mansfield, elementary school principal, $14,500 in compensation, retired in June 2009 at a salary of $104,684.
• Judy McMahon, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, $1,500 in compensation, retired in June 2008 at a salary of $113,506.
The state retirement agency sent letters detailing the overpayments to the six administrators in late August, spokesman Frank Ryder said.
The administrators can repay the money in a lump sum or in payments, he said. The six have until Sept. 30 to file an appeal, Ryder said.
He said he did not have all the information to disclose the amount of overpayment each administrator received in retirement checks.
Mansfield said his overpayment amounted to $43 per month for a period of about 50 months, or a total $2,150. He said he expects his monthly retirement checks will be lowered by $86 per month to compensate until the overpayment amount is reached.
“They simply said Greensburg Salem made an error in calculating your retirement,” Mansfield added of the letter.
Mansfield said he attended an administrative meeting a few years ago that involved top-level administrators, principals and others. An administrator — he said he was uncertain who — said the sick days were allowed to be used.
Mansfield said he didn't know something improper was being done.“Absolutely not,” he said. “We didn't know. We certainly found out later they weren't eligible.”
Yarabinetz and Shipley have denied any wrongdoing or that they ordered staff to make the payments.
Ferraro, Kirchner and McMahon did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Greensburg resident Bob Iuzzolino, who questioned Amato about the payments during a school board meeting Wednesday, said he is willing to wait for the name or names of the senior administrators who order the payments, as long as it doesn't take months.
The school district may need to reimburse the state additional money because the overpayment caused the district to pay more in state subsidy than it was entitled to, Amato said.
In addition, the district may have to repay the state for excess retirement payments the state made to the district.
The state Department of Education still needs to determine the subsidy and other amounts that need to be repaid, Amato said.
An education department spokesman didn't return phone calls Thursday.
Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or email@example.com.
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