Greensburg Salem pays $140K to ex-high school principal who claimed he was ‘blackballed’ |

Greensburg Salem pays $140K to ex-high school principal who claimed he was ‘blackballed’

Jacob Tierney

Greensburg Salem School District will pay a $140,000 settlement to an ex-administrator who claimed he was discriminated against because of his involvement in an earlier staffing controversy.

Former high school Associate Principal Joey L. Maluchnik sued the district in May 2017, claiming district officials blackballed him by refusing to promote him to positions for which he was qualified, according to the lawsuit filed in Westmoreland County.

The district denied the allegations.

Superintendent Gary Peiffer declined to comment on the lawsuit or the settlement.

Maluchnik’s lawyer, Edward Olds, could not be reached Tuesday.

According to the civil complaint, the bad blood between Maluchnik and the district began in 2013 when district officials attempted to demote another administrator, Lisa Rullo, from director of student and district services to associate principal at the high school — a lower-paying position.

Rullo contested the move and filed a charge of discrimination against the district. Eventually, officials agreed to pay her a $193,000 settlement and she left the district.

Rullo’s husband, Nick Rullo, was elected to the school board in 2015, after his wife had left the district.

Maluchnik’s complaint said he was one of several administrators who supported Rullo, meeting with school board members and sending a letter to then-superintendent Eileen Amato objecting to the proposed demotion.

In the years that followed, he twice applied for higher-ranking positions within the district. Both times, the district promoted others instead. In the complaint, Maluchnik argued he was more qualified than the people who were promoted over him.

Maluchnik said another administrator told him Amato had blackballed him because of his support of Rullo.

The district denied this in a court filing, stating there were “many qualified candidates” for the positions and that promotion decisions are not based solely on credentials but take into account “knowledge, experience, leadership, work ethic, communication skills and the ability to work within the team concept.”

Maluchnik was paid $121,722 in the 2017-18 school year, according to district records.

The school board voted last week to pay the settlement and accept the employee’s resignation. The district still has not publicly acknowledged Maluchnik as that employee or divulged details of the settlement. The Tribune-Review this week filed a Right to Know request for both the settlement and the resignation letter.

District officials said Monday they could not disclose information about the settlement because it included a gag order.

“We’ve been advised, the whole way through this, that legal matters, personnel matters, we’re not allowed to comment on it,” school board President Ron Mellinger said.

Confidentiality agreements do not apply to school districts and other public agencies, according to Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel with the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association. The settlement is a public record and cannot be kept secret with a confidentiality agreement, she said.

Maluchnik’s lawsuit from 2017 and the district’s initial response are public records available through the Westmoreland County Prothonotary’s office.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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