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Greensburg Salem district awaits word on boosted pensions for administrators

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Greensburg Salem officials continue to await word from the state about the effect the alleged spiking of six administrators' pensions will have on the school district, the superintendent said on Wednesday.

“We have not heard back yet any specific information, either from the Department of Education or PSERs (the Public School Employees' Retirement System),” Eileen Amato told school directors during a meeting. “We're still in a holding pattern.”

Amato said she would inform the directors of the consequences once she knows them.

The pensions of the six administrators were boosted when nearly $141,000 in ineligible income was tacked onto their salaries, according to a report released in August by the state auditor general.

The auditor general 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.

Last month, Amato said she would release the name or names of the administrators who ordered employees to tack on the ineligible income when she is legally able to do so.

Most of the administrators' pensions went up by a small amount.

The six combined accounted for $140,907 in ineligible compensation, either for unused sick days or for health care coverage, according to the audit.

Former Superintendent Tom Yarabinetz accounted for more than half of the overpayments — $74,892, according to the audit.

Three of the administrators — Yarabinetz, Tom Shipley and Jeff Mansfield — have denied any wrongdoing. The three remaining administrators — Tom Ferraro, Lee Kirchner and Judy McMahon — have not returned telephone calls.

The state pension agency has sent letters detailing the overpayments and possible remedies to all six administrators.

Auditors combed through district records for a year before issuing the report. They looked at the retirement accounts as a result of 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 does not release the names of people involved in an audit, Woods said.

Auditors said they could not determine the exact amount the overpayments had inflated the pensions. They turned that responsibility over to the pension agency.

The school 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 in the past.

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 will determine the subsidy and other amounts that need to be repaid, Amato 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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