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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 9, 2007

End to summer perk

By Rachel Dutil

VOORHEESVILLE – A longstanding school-district practice that allows six office workers to take off Friday afternoons in the summer with pay, will not continue for employees hired after July 2 of this year.

The school board, at its July meeting, voted to amend the benefit policy for managerial and confidential district employees, and also cut a $6,000 bonus that had been paid to 15-year workers on retirement.

Managerial employees, explained Superintendent Linda Langevin, "supervise other people." Confidential employees are people in the business office who "may have knowledge or insight into confidential matters," she said, citing financial negotiations as an example.

The shortened summer Friday workday has been a practice for "24 years that I know of," said Langevin, adding that, "it could have been longer than that."

There are six district employees that currently take advantage of the summertime perk. "That was part of the terms and conditions of their employment, and it wasn’t documented," Langevin said.

A second audit by the state comptroller’s office of the Voorheesville School District, released in November of 2006, noted the lack of documentation to back up the custom. "Although this is a long-standing practice at the District, only the former Superintendent authorized it in annual memorandums. The Board did not authorize it in a policy or by resolution," the audit said.

In the amended policy, Article 15, titled Summer Hours, has two parts.

The first part refers to "employees designated as managerial or confidential before July 2, 2007." These employees may "be eligible to work a shortened workday with no loss in pay on Fridays during the summer."

The summer is defined to be the first Friday after commencement through the last Friday in August prior to Labor Day.

The second part refers to employees hired in confidential positions after July 2, 2007. These employees will be eligible, based on the discretion of the superintendent and the workload, to work a shortened day on Friday in the summer "without pay unless the employee charges their available vacation leave or compensatory time."

The benefit "only applies to confidential employees," Langevin explained. As of July 1, no employees of the district are categorized as managerial. Michael Goyer, the district’s superintendent for operations, maintenance, and transportation, was the last employee classified as managerial, but, as of the first of July, he works under the administrative contract, Langevin said.

"I’m here in the afternoon, unless I take vacation time," she said. "I was hired under the condition that I would work as much as was needed."

The board has "revised a couple of items," Langevin said of the policy. "We’ve worked on this for over a year, in different parts," she said.

"There was a major reduction in their benefits," Langevin said for confidential workers.

Prior to the amendment, district employees with "15 years of service," who gave a three-year written notice of their retirement, were paid $6,000 in 78 equal installments of up to $76.92 per pay day over the last three years of employment.

This benefit was removed from the policy, Langevin said. "The board has changed the policy so that they were satisfied with the content."

The employees were "accepting" of the $6,000 benefit reduction, Langevin said.

The board also made adjustments in the determination of immediate family under bereavement leave. It is now defined to include: "the employee’s spouse, fiancée, child, parent, grandparent, sibling, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, parent-in-law or aunts and uncles."

The changes "actually strengthen the policy," Langevin said. "The terms and conditions under which current employees were hired, are documented. New confidential people can be hired under new terms and conditions," she concluded.

Audit case closed
V’ville, Marturano reach a settlement

By Rachel Dutil

VOORHEESVILLE – A "neutral" settlement has been reached between the Voorheesville School District and the former assistant superintendent for business, Anthony Marturano, said Superintendent Linda Langevin this week.

Both parties, she said, "agreed that it would just be settled."

The settlement marks the end of two civil suits – one filed against Marturano, and the other against former Superintendent Alan McCartney – in response to allegations released in a January, 2006 audit by the office of the state comptroller that the retired administrators "inappropriately" paid themselves $216,000.

When former Comptroller Alan Hevesi held a press conference to announce the results of the audit, then school board President Joseph Pofit expressed "outrage" on behalf of the entire board, which filed civil suits against the two men the same day, in an effort to recoup the funds.

An investigation by Albany County District Attorney David Soares’s office found no grounds to prosecute the men. Soares said the school district’s "weak internal controls" are what likely led to the problems.

A second audit released in November of 2006 found that McCartney had charged nearly $12,000 to the district for personal expenses. Marturano was not implicated of wrongdoing in that audit.

A settlement was finalized with McCartney in late March; he paid the district $40,000.

Marturano, accused of collecting $89,069 over 11 years of employment, has consistently asserted his innocence to The Enterprise, while McCartney consistently declined comment.

"I cannot say in strong enough terms, I did not do anything improper," Marturano told The Enterprise following the release of the 2006 audit findings. "I’m shocked and surprised by the whole thing...My good name is now mud.

"Dr. McCartney and I were devoted to that school," Marturano told The Enterprise earlier from his home in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Marturano could not be reached for comment this week.

Board members took no responsibility for approving many of the payments – largely for unused sick time and vacation pay as well as boosting retirement packages; they claimed in the suits that McCartney and Marturano were purposely deceitful, and well aware what they were doing was not allowed.

As a result of the audit and the subsequent litigation, said Langevin, "We came to understand the internal controls were in need of review, which we’ve done, and that’s the important thing."

Langevin said that at no time following the release of the audit did she or the board sit down and talk with McCartney or Marturano. "There were conversations, but they were between the attorneys," she said. "We didn’t have direct conversations with them," she said, adding that it was the recommendation of the district’s lawyer.

The conversations between the school’s and administrators’ attorneys and discussions that followed between the board and its attorney, "resulted in the reduction in the acceptable settlement" with Marturano, Langevin said.

Because the school district went ahead with the civil suits so quickly after the first audit was released, former school board President Robert Baron said earlier, it inadvertently broke down the lines of communication with the former administrators.

"Once you raise the stakes so high, it just kills the communication," said Baron, who served on the board during the tenure of both retired administrators.

Langevin this week referred to the ongoing litigation as "a situation of diminishing return." The board had to make a balanced decision, she said. "How much are you going to expend of the taxpayer’s money"" she asked, adding that the process could continue indefinitely.

Langevin had estimated in August of 2006 that the district had spent nearly $102,000 on the litigation; current figures were not available this week.

Because there was no criminality, Langevin said, the district will not be reimbursed for legal fees through its insurance company.

"I think we made a reasonable decision," Langevin said.

"It was time for us and Dr. Marturano to put this behind all of us," said school board President David Gibson on Wednesday. "It was the best thing to do at this time," he said.

"I think, as painful as this was for everyone concerned" I know that the district has learned things," Gibson said.

Some of the payments that Marturano received "may have even been appropriate," Gibson said. "But, there wasn’t the right documentation.

"It’s a continuous learning process," Gibson said of the fiduciary responsibility of the board and the administration.

"I feel good that we’ll have continuous improvement," Gibson said. "You can’t just stand still."

"The district is satisfied with the result and anxious to move on," Langevin concluded of the settlement.

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