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Hanover Area Board Could Face Lawsuit

February 7, 2019

The Hanover Area School Board could face a lawsuit if the board doesn’t reconsider Tuesday’s decision to terminate a contract for a van service run by the parents of Board President Frank Ciavarella Jr., attorney Bruce Phillips said.

Frank and Dorothy Ciavarella could sue for breach of contract, Phillips said. The board terminated the contract because school district officials want them to return roughly $250,000 to the district because of payment-calculation errors.

“They’re blaming my guy for their errors ... and smearing his name all over the place as though he’s done something wrong. And he’s done absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever,” Phillips said. “But having looked at this contract, the unilateral termination they did last night, I think there is a breach of the contact at this point.”

Frank Ciavarella Jr. recused himself from Tuesday’s board vote. School District Solicitor Jack Dean laughed out loud at the suggestion that Frank and Dorothy Ciavarella had a legal case against the district.

“I would be happy to defend such a lawsuit. I am confident in our position,” Dean said.

The termination of the van service is effective March 1, and it comes in the second year of a five-year deal. Dorothy and Frank Ciavarella should have received around $136,000 for the 2017-18 school year and received roughly $286,000 instead because an employee input inaccurate mileage amounts, Dean said.

“I think he has valid contract. Mr. Ciavarella nor do I want to sue the Hanover Area School Board, but there’s a lot of money involved here.”

The payment amount is determined by reimbursement formula established by the state and miles traveled, Dean said.

 

The board could reconsider the termination decision if Frank and Dorothy Ciavarella pay back the $250,000, Dean said.

“All the information he gave them was accurate, 100-percent accurate, and he actually questioned this when this was initially done,” Phillips said. “... and the fact that two employees down there goofed, and it was overpaid. We can’t even acknowledge that. That’s just accepting what they say on the face. I’m told the one employee did acknowledge having mis-entered the mileage somehow.”

Phillips said he wants to see how the district determined the overpayment amount. Dean said he has received that information to give to Phillips.

“Attorney Dean, he’s been very cooperative. I don’t think he’s trying to hide anything, but I need to know how they came up with this number,” Phillips said.

Dorothy and Frank Ciavarella were providing transportation for 15 students, and another van company will pick up transporting those students, Dean said. The board approved the contract for the Ciavarella van service in June 2017, and Frank Ciavarella Jr. abstained.

The school district contacted the Luzerne County 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.

District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis did not return a message seeking comment. Dean said he does not believe “there is anything criminal.”

Contact the writer:

mbuffer@citizensvoice.com

570-821-2073, @cvmikebuffer

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