Penn Hills school officials refuse to address business manager's absence
Penn Hills school officials refused to explain the absence of district Business Manager David Roussos from a finance committee meeting Tuesday where he usually plays a key role.
During the week before the meeting, Roussos could not be reached by phone at his district office or by email. Several messages were left on Roussos' office line with no return call. Messages to his work email, firstname.lastname@example.org, were automatically returned as undeliverable for several days.
During the committee meeting, former school board member Jennifer Burgess-Johnson asked why Roussos wasn't there and got a short answer from officials. Superintendent Nancy Hines said Roussos remains a paid employee and “he's not here today.” Hines earlier had compared his absence to when she missed a meeting for a family emergency, but would not elaborate when questioned whether that was why Roussos was out.
“Something is wrong,” Burgess-Johnson said. “I don't know what it is.”
Board President Erin Vecchio, Director Marlon Ferguson and district spokeswoman Teresita Kolenchak all declined to comment about Roussos. Several calls to a phone number listed as the home of Roussos in Crafton were not returned.
The administration is to present its 2018-19 preliminary budget — traditionally the job of a business manager — at its meeting Tuesday. It was Hines who discussed the budget in front of the finance committee. Hines said the proposed budget includes a tax increase, and she plans to ask the district's 500-plus employees to accept a pay freeze. How big of a tax hike and what it would mean to property owners was not disclosed.
Michael Lamb, a technical adviser appointed by the state Department of Education to help the district sort out its finances, said his work was not impacted by the business manager's absence.
“I've been able to get the information I need to review things,” Lamb said.
He deferred questions about Roussos to administration.
Roussos was hired as business manager by a 7-1 vote in 2016. Vecchio dissented. His annual salary is $107,500.
Roussos replaced Brookline native Robert Geletko, who left Penn Hills in November 2016 to take a similar job at the Connellsville Area School District. Penn Hills hired him a year before to replace Richard Liberto, the district's business manager from 2008 until he was fired in 2015.
In May 2016, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a performance audit of a district in which he cited rampant fiscal mismanagement, bad business decisions and a gaping lack of oversight.
Shortly after that audit, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. started an investigation of school district finances that remains ongoing.
Zappala spokesman Mike Manko declined to comment on the investigation.