PRINGLE —Nancy Tkatch abruptly resigned as West Side Career and Technology Center Administrative Director on Monday on the heels of an internal investigation related to use of a school credit card. The findings of the investigation are being turned over to police.
Solicitor Charles Coslett said he launched the investigation less than three weeks ago after receiving a call from Joint Operating Committee Member Dave Paulaskas. The JOC, composed of school board members of the five districts that send students to West Side, runs the center. Paulaskas is a representative from the Lake-Lehman School Board.
Coslett said he met with West Side Business Manager Dave Williams, conducted an investigation and then met with Tkatch last Thursday and Friday.
“I made it very clear in an email that I considered those meetings affording her her due process rights,” Coslett said, meaning they constituted a “Laudermill hearing,” the name for a legally mandated chance for a public employee to hear accusations and respond before being terminated.
Coslett said Tkatch’s letter of resignation came after those meetings, and included, in a sealed envelope with his name on it, a check for $7,000, which he turned over to the school. Coslett said that was part of the money in dispute. He said an additional sum remains in question, but he has been told that money would be covered under a grant and could be recouped from the grant.
Coslett didn’t know the source of the grant and declined to say how much more money was involved other than to say it was “not insignificant.”
“I don’t think the issue is restitution,” Coslett said. “I’m very satisfied Mrs. Tkatch has shown a remarkable degree of cooperation.”
The JOC voted unanimously to accept the resignation and to advertise the position. Coslett said he will turn his findings over to Kingston police, who have jurisdiction.
Tkatch came to West Side after serving as Northwest Area superintendent from 2004 through June 2011, when she stepped down after the board declined to renew her contract. She moved immediately into the job as administrative director at West Side CTC.
Tkatch started her career in education shortly after graduating from Wilkes-Barre Area Vo-Tech, now also a career and technology center. She had studied food preparation and service, and briefly went into the business. But within six months she got a job at her alma mater as a teacher’s aide. She never left education.
She took college courses to earn degrees and certifications that she used to get a jobs as a teacher at Hazleton Area Career and Technology Center, as principal at Monroe County Career and Technology Center and then as superintendent at Northwest Area.
Her career at Northwest Area was tainted in March 2013, when the state Auditor General’s Office issued a report contending Tkatch had been given a “health benefit waiver” worth $3,360 that she should not have received.
According to the report, the district’s contract with Tkatch at the time ran from July 1, 2007, to her departure in 2011 and stated that if she declined district insurance coverage she was eligible for a health benefit waiver worth 25 percent of the monthly premium share the district would otherwise have spent.
Tkatch , who agreed to pay part of her health insurance premium when hired in 2004, sent a memo to the district dated Jan. 27, 2011, requesting “consideration of a 25 percent health benefit waiver payment,” according to the report. She was not insured by the district, and received one-quarter of the annual $13,440 husband/wife plan she was entitled to.
The report said the offer for the waiver payment had expired Aug. 31, 2010, well before Tkatch requested it, and the board approved the payment in executive session rather than at a public meeting.
Though the Auditor General’s Office said the waiver should not have been paid, the incident did not constitute a “finding,” the official term for noncompliance with state law and procedures. The primary purpose of the periodic audits is to check compliance.
Tkatch said at the time that there was nothing inappropriate and that her decision not to be covered by district insurance had saved the district tens of thousands during her tenure.