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Judge Questions Why Scranton School District Has Not Tried To Recoup Losses

February 6, 2019

SCRANTON — As a city businessman attempts to recoup some of the money he says the Scranton School District wasted, a Lackawanna County judge asked Wednesday why the school board hasn’t made efforts on its own. Paul Catalano sued the school board in November 2017, seeking authorization to make claims on the district’s errors and omissions liability insurance on behalf of the district. In his suit, Catalano said 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. On Wednesday, the suit took a small step forward, as Judge Terrence R. Nealon heard oral arguments on whether to allow Catalano to amend his petition. Based on a review of the insurance policy, Catalano’s attorney, Michael R. Mey, seeks to change the complaint from Catalano bringing his claim solely on behalf of the board, to letting Catalano pursue the claim on behalf of himself and other district taxpayers. Attorney Joseph Joyce, appointed by the district’s insurance company to represent the school board, said the school board has government immunity and that Catalano lacks standing. Nealon, who has not ruled yet, questioned whether Joyce had a conflict of interest, and told Joyce that his arguments should be made by the insurance company, not by the district. If Catalano had the ability to file the insurance claim, any money recovered would go back to the district’s general fund. “Why would the school board not want that?” Nealon asked. Instead, the financially challenged school district is incurring more expenses by trying to have this case dismissed, the judge said. Of the nine board members sued in 2017, only four remain on the board — Paul Duffy, Bob Lesh, Mark McAndrew and Tom Schuster. When questioned by the judge if the current board had been briefed on the case and still wanted to pursue its dismissal, Joyce said he had not had that discussion. 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. Since Auditor General Eugene DePasquale uncovered those issues in his 2017 audit, the district has faced growing criticism from his office. A corruption investigation from the state attorney general is ongoing, with Sansky and former district business manager Gregg Sunday facing charges. Mey said his client, who owns Catalano Importing Co. in West Scranton, feels deeply invested in the community and wants to see the district recoup some of its losses. “He feels it’s his obligation,” Mey said. Contact the writer: shofius@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9133; @hofiushallTT on Twitter

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