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Former Greensburg Salem school administrators appeal pension trims of $400

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Thursday, July 3, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

Two former Greensburg Salem administrators whose compensation was spiked to boost their pensions are fighting to retain nearly $400 that was cut from the more than $18,000 they receive in monthly pension checks.

Former Superintendent Tom Yarabinetz and Business Manager Tom Ferraro have appealed decisions that trimmed their checks by a combined $397.46, according to the state Public School Employees' Retirement System.

In May, the state pension agency backed an earlier decision to cut the retirement checks of Yarabinetz, Ferraro and former District Principal Lee Kirchner. The state auditor general's office determined last year that ineligible income was added to the three men's salaries, spiking their pension checks.

Kirchner has not appealed that decision, pension agency spokeswoman Evelyn Tatkovski Williams said on Wednesday.

Current administrators told state auditors that former, unnamed senior administrators ordered subordinates to report the ineligible income, even though the employees advised them that doing so was against state pension regulations, according to a state auditor general's office report.

The current administration has not identified the top administrators who allegedly gave the order.

In the recent decision, the retirement system's executive committee agreed that unused sick days for all three men and health insurance compensation for Yarabinetz should not have been considered as salary for pension purposes.

Yarabinetz's monthly check was trimmed from $11,246.82 to $11,028.28. Ferraro's monthly check was cut $178.92, from $7,135.09 to $6,956.17.

Kirchner's check dropped from $5,981.25 to $5,719.20 .

Greensburg attorney Dennis Rafferty, who represents Yarabinetz and Ferraro, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Auditors determined that six former administrators had nearly $141,000 in ineligible income used to calculate pension payments. Three of the retirees did not challenge the reductions.

Auditors examined the pension accounts after getting tips of possible problems, state and school officials said.

School board President Ron Mellinger did not address the appeals on Wednesday but said the pension problems tarnished the district's image, which he and other directors are working to repair.

“It was a black eye to the district, and as I stated when I took office, we're trying to be a more transparent district,” Mellinger said.

The district has taken steps to avoid a similar problem by having more school officials oversee retirement accounts, he added.

A hearing date for the appeals has not been scheduled, Williams 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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