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Public not likely to see JT reports

Published October 09. 2019 12:24PM

Jim Thorpe Area School District’s investigations into its administrators and business office have cost more than $15,000.

But despite footing the bill for the reviews, residents still haven’t seen the results of one completed investigation.

“The board would like to release that forensic review, however it is under an active investigation at this time,” board president Pearl Downs-Sheckler said last month. They are also unlikely to see the second one, which is still ongoing. Last month, the school board hired a law firm and an accounting firm to assist the district with an investigation reviewing the performance of Business Manager Lauren Kovac, and the procedures and processes in the business office.

The board placed Kovac on paid leave while the investigation is completed.

The investigation is being done in accordance with Kovac’s contract, which was signed in 2016. The contract states that the board and business manager cannot disclose publicly that an investigation is underway.

It says that “any investigations shall be completed in private without any public disclosure by the board or the business manager of the commencement or progress of the same.”

The contract says that the board must notify the business manager by certified mail that an investigation is taking place, which they did at their meeting in September. It says the business manager will be granted access to any documents or reports generated from the investigation, and granted the opportunity to respond to any documents, findings or conclusions.

It states that the board is not obligated to share its attorney-client privilege or work product information following the investigation.

An accounting firm and a legal firm from the Philadelphia area have been hired to work on the district’s investigation.

The board last month agreed to pay accounting firm Eisner Amper $5,000 to assist with the investigation. The board is slated to vote tonight on an engagement letter with Eisner Amper which will outline the services more specifically.

Levin Legal group’s services will cost the district between $180-$200 per hour.

The forensic review into potential credit card misuse, which the board received in August, cost the district over $10,000.

Last November, the board paid Brown Schultz Sheridan and Fritz a $5,000 retainer. In April, the firm requested another $5,000 retainer, which the board paid. In June, the firm sent an invoice for $1,200, which the board paid. In July, the firm sent a final invoice for $4,330. The board declined to pay that invoice at its meetings in August and September.

The district denied a request from the Times News to release that report. In the denial, it said the report was not subject to the state’s right to know law, contained protected employee information, is related to an ongoing investigation among other reasons.

The school board president has maintained that she wants the forensic review released, but recently said it can’t be made public while the matter is under active investigation.

Downs-Sheckler had said in May that she felt the review should be made public because it was funded with taxpayer money. In September, she addressed the issue.

“If it would be at all possible, the day we had it, you would have had it, but we need to go further and we need to look into things, so I ask for your patience,” Downs-Sheckler said.

The district has now retained an interim business manager who will oversee the business office while the investigation is completed. Joseph Surridge formerly served as business manager in Riverside School District near Scranton. The board will vote tonight to approve a contract with the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials for $62.50 per hour for Surridge’s services, retroactive to Sept. 25.

For about two weeks following Kovac’s suspension, the superintendent and business office staff stepped in to run the business office. Downs-Sheckler praised them for keeping the office functioning without a business manager.

“Everyone got paid, the lights are still on, things are getting done,” she said.

The board will meet at 7 tonight in the district office, 410 Center Ave., Jim Thorpe.

$62.50 per hour + Riverside and Old Forge being neighboring School Districts - Transparency = Your trumpian math assignment for the evening.
The saga continues; the district can’t pay two contractors to handle bus routes, leaving children on tardy, crowded buses, but they can sure toss money around on legal bills. At the last meeting, the board admitted that the first investigation didn’t even cover what they thought it was supposed to.
You can’t publicly release evidence in a current investigation.
Still waiting on the report of the Janitor at Penn Kidder that jerked off on to a teachers desk overnight. never heard a peep about that.
It says (in the contract) that “any investigations shall be completed in private without any public disclosure by the board or the business manager of the commencement or progress of the same.”

So the board announced at the meeting in September that LK was notified by certified mail. Isn't that right there public disclosure investigation had commenced. That is a direct breach of contract.

.....and the procedures and processes in the business office. Surely any written procedures and processes could be disclosed - if there are any.

I'm not in the JT school district and this just seems like a witch hunt. No disrespect to Mrs. Kovack. I hope she has a good severance package.

Or the guilty.

Perhaps Witch Hunt was a poor choice. But if I'm correct about the disclosure thing, why would a district (with Attorneys everywhere) risk the investigation by breaching the contract? Or did they get so excited they think they have something on someone they just had to act? If there's other reasons/conflicts/whatever I get it this could be an easy way to get rid of someone. But why the haste?

I don't know any of these people, but it just seems like they're running all over the place. By the way search TNN on this. They can't even be consistent on what to call this investigation/credit report/credit audit/forensic report/forensic audit.

Is this the same credit report JT was seeking regarding the administrators (plural) misuse? Now they've narrowed the focus to the business manager? Kinda like at home we all jump on Mrs. Abrupt's amazon prime account. I don't think for a minute anyone would believe Mrs. Abrupt was responsible for purchasing Billy-Bob teeth and fro-wig. That is if you were allowed to see the reports:-)

Probably by the time this is over they'll have spent more than the $34k everybody is so concerned about. Over 5 years are you kidding me? My credit card sees more use than that. Heck just post the monthly reports here. We'll go through it in a couple hours free of charge. In case you were wondering 34,000/45(assuming the school is active 9 months per year)=$755 per month.

Maybe three ring circus would have been a better choice of words.

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