Hanover Area Ends Van Contract With Board Member’s Parents
HANOVER TWP. — The Hanover Area School Board on Tuesday terminated a contract for a van service run by the parents of Board President Frank Ciavarella Jr., and the school district has informed the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office about a $250,000 overpayment for the three-van service.
Ciaveralla recused himself from the vote and a discussion about the issue in a closed session before the public meeting. The overpayment resulted from a personnel error that involved not accurately entering mileage traveled into a computer system, solicitor Jack Dean said.
The school district is trying to recover the overpayment from Dorothy and Frank Ciavarella, Dean said, adding he has been in contact with their attorney, Bruce Phillips. The termination of the van service is effective March 1 and has more to do with not paying back the district than performance, Dean said.
The district “has also taken certain internal personnel actions with potentially more to follow,” Dean said. He would not say if any disciplinary actions were taken against Superintendent William Jones and Melissa Grenewicz, the employee responsible for transportation administration, because he doesn’t comment on personnel matters.
Jones and Grenewicz were not at the public meeting. Jones did not return messages seeking comment.
The termination comes in the second year of a five-year deal. Dorothy and Frank Ciavarella were providing transportation for 15 students, and another van company will start providing transportation to those students on March 1, Dean said.
Dorothy and Frank Ciavarella should have received around $136,000 for the 2017-18 school year and received roughly $286,000 instead, Dean said. Business Manager Robert Kachurak discovered the overpayment.
The school district contacted the district attorney’s office in early January about the overpayment, and the district has not heard back from the district attorney’s office on whether any crimes were committed, Dean said.
“While I don’t feel, based on my investigation, there is anything criminal, that is not our decision to make,” Dean said after Tuesday’s meeting. “I’m not the DA. That’s the DA’s decision.”
The district also reported to the overpayment to the state auditor general’s office and met with state auditors, Dean said.
“My investigation revealed that they submitted correct mileage sheets,” Dean said. “We made an overpayment. They accepted the overpayment. ... I have found no evidence of anything nefarious, other than errors.”
The district now does a double check on mileage numbers in its computer system, Dean said.
“The other two van companies were paid correctly, as was our regular bus contractor,” Dean said. “We did determine that the method in which this particular company submitted mileage was slightly different than the other companies. The other companies submitted it more in a computer-type format, versus the old fashioned format.”
The district has two solicitors. The other solicitor is William Finnegan, who also works as an assistant district attorney in Luzerne County.
The school board approved the contract for the Ciavarella van service in June 2017, and Frank Ciavarella Jr. abstained. Prior to being named acting superintendent in August 2017, Jones was the principal at Hanover Green Elementary School and the district transportation director.
At a meeting in August 2017, the board appointed Jones as acting superintendent and also promoted Grenewicz from a part-time secretary to a full-time employee responsible for transportation administration.
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