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Rullo backers question costs of job dispute for Greesnburg Salem

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Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 11:36 p.m.
 

Supporters of embattled Greensburg Salem administrator Lisa Rullo told the school board this week they are concerned about how much the employment dispute might cost the district in legal and other costs.

Audience members in the packed board meeting room on Wednesday questioned the hiring of a relative of the superintendent as a special education consultant.

Ken Dzialowski of Greensburg said he researched employment disputes similar to Rullo's and discovered they could cost the district at least $100,000 and last for several years on appeal.

“This could cost the taxpayers of this district a half-million dollars,” Dzialowski said, adding the money could be used elsewhere.

Taxpayers shelled out $40,176 as of late January for legal expenses to attorney William Andrews and solicitor John Scales for matters involving Rullo, according to district financial records.

District officials have proposed demoting Rullo from her $134,996-a-year job as director of student and district services to an associate principal position at the high school at a lesser salary.

A Feb. 21 session has been scheduled for a mediator to hear both sides of the dispute and possibly reach a settlement. The mediator's recommendation is not binding.

Except for two demotion hearings, held in public at Rullo's request, district officials have discussed her employment status in private on legal and personnel grounds.

Connie Mattei of Salem questioned why Ron Tarosky — Superintendent Eileen Amato's cousin — was hired as a special education consultant in Rullo's absence.

“I was surprised,” she said. “I really have to question your decision for a family member to be hired.”

Tarosky was hired last summer and has received $28,200 from July 22 — his first day on the job — to Jan. 31, according to district financial records.

Tarosky was hired to help Lisa Hauswirth, who began working in December as acting director of student and district services, with the transition to her new job, Director Richard Payha explained.

“We thought it was prudent to do that,” he said.

Hauswirth, a former elementary school principal, earns $119,222 annually.

The district needed a consultant who understands the intricacies of special education immediately, Amato said after the meeting. Her cousin, a former special education director in the Franklin Regional School District, could do that work on a limited-time basis, she added.

“The district was fortunate to have a local retired individual like Ron to fill in temporarily due to the void created in the special education office with the medical sabbatical of Lisa Rullo and the maternity leave of Lisa Hauswirth,” Amato said.

“Ron's expertise and reputation ... are well-known and respected throughout the state, and he accomplished many good things in his short time here,” she added.

Rullo began the first of two sabbatical leaves for health restoration in spring 2013.

Testimony during the two demotion hearings showed Amato did not formally reprimand Rullo prior to seeking her demotion, Terri Fontanazza of Greensburg said.

“To many, it just appears to be a way to sabotage her (Rullo),” Fontanazza added.

Jim Barbe of Salem discussed another persistent topic involving the district and school board — spiked pensions for retired administrators.

In an audit released in August, the state Auditor General determined nearly $141,000 in ineligible compensation was forwarded for retirement consideration, boosting the monthly pension checks of the administrators.

In their response to auditors, district officials said previous senior administrators ordered subordinates to include the ineligible income, even though the subordinates told them that doing so was against state pension regulations.

“Who is that person? Who are these people?” Barbe asked.

Amato said she could not name who ordered the employees because the issue has not been settled.

“Legally, we cannot do it,” she 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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