Paul Catalano Lawsuit Against Scranton School Board Still Active
More than a year after a city businessman filed a lawsuit accusing the Scranton School Board of negligence in its handling of district finances, the case inches along in Lackawanna County Court.
Oral arguments are now set for Feb. 6 before Judge Terrence R. Nealon on a motion by Paul Catalano to amend the complaint he originally brought against the board and its members on Nov. 8, 2017.
In his suit, Catalano claimed the board acted negligently in paying more than $4 million in questionable fuel surcharge increases to busing contractor DeNaples Transportation from 2007 to 2016 and in failing to supervise payments and benefits to former fleet manager Daniel Sansky.
He asked the court to allow him to make claims on behalf of the board through the school district’s errors and omissions liability insurance to recoup the loss to taxpayers.
At a March 15 hearing during which board attorney Brendan Fitzgerald argued the suit should be dismissed, Nealon questioned whether the district’s insurance policies would even cover that type of loss.
After reviewing the coverage, Catalano’s attorney, Michael R. Mey, discovered the policy language barred Catalano from bringing his claim solely on behalf of the board, according to documents filed in the case.
On April 20, Mey filed a motion to amend the complaint to let Catalano pursue the claim on behalf of himself and other district taxpayers.
In a brief filed Aug. 14 in opposition to Catalano’s motion, Fitzgerald cited many of the same objections he raised in seeking the dismissal of the original lawsuit.
Among other things, he contends the businessman lacks standing as an individual and a taxpayer to bring the lawsuit, board members have absolute immunity from suits while acting in their official capacities and the district enjoys governmental immunity from the negligence claims cited in the complaint.
Since Catalano filed his suit, a statewide grand jury accused Sansky of routinely overbilling taxpayers and charging the school district for work on the personal vehicles of at least a dozen employees or their family members while acting as fleet manager from 2005 to 2017.
Sansky faces a preliminary hearing Dec. 18 on seven felony counts, including corrupt organizations, dealing in unlawful proceeds, criminal conspiracy and theft by deception, after his arrest by the state attorney general’s office in September. As the investigation continues, more arrests are likely.
The district is also awaiting a report from its state-appointed financial monitor, PFM, on whether DeNaples Transportation overcharged the district.
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