Changes to LCCC president’s contract come after hit-and-run crash

Last updated: March 12. 2014 11:46PM - 3705 Views
By - jlynott@civitasmedia.com



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NANTICOKE — The hit-and-run crash involving Luzerne County Community College President Thomas Leary cost him his school-provided car, a week’s pay and a raise, keeping his annual salary at $155,000.


The chair of the school’s Board of Trustees Tuesday amended Leary’s contract in response to the Nov. 2, 2013, crash in the parking lot of a Kingston restaurant.


Leary’s acceptance of responsibility and paying for the damage done to the 2013 Honda Accord signaled the end to controversy surrounding the accident as the board expressed a desire to move on and stood behind its president.


“Despite this incident, the board remains confident in Mr. Leary and his ability to lead the institution. Mr. Leary and the board remain committed to the mission of the college and are looking forward to continuing to serve the community,” the school said in a prepared statement Wednesday.


The next step will be for the board to ratify the contract amendments at its next publicly scheduled meeting.


Leary, 62, apologized not only for the “undesirable and negative publicity” he brought to the college, but also for the damage done to the other car.


He issued a statement through the school: “I regret the manner in which the events were reported to the board. In particular, I apologize for the harm this publicity may have caused to the reputation of the college in the community. By this agreement, I acknowledge my responsibility for these harms and I appreciate the opportunity to express myself to the Board of Trustees, the college community, and the public at large. I look forward to devoting my energies and attention to the mission at hand and in continuing to lead the college’s advancement.”


The changes required Leary to immediately return his car to the school. He can use his own vehicle and submit for mileage reimbursement.


In addition, Leary will not be entitled to the “discretionary increase” that had been in the contract he signed on Dec. 6, 2011, and renewed on Dec. 11, 2013, for two more years. The amendment froze his salary at $155,000 a year and docked him a week’s pay, effective the next pay period.


His contract renewed a little more than a month after the crash in the lot of Theo’s Metro on Mercer Avenue.


Witness statement


A witness in the police report filed in response to the crash said the occupants of Leary’s Honda switched seats after causing extensive damage to a Volkswagen Jetta an restaurant employee parked in the lot. But Leary assured the investigating officer that only he drove his car.


Leary also told a Times Leader reporter he was not drinking alcohol the night of the crash.


He said he did not know he hit the Volkswagen and drove his Honda home. He said he later received a phone call from someone telling him that he might have “brushed” a car and called the restaurant to leave his contact information.


The police report said the impact of the crash caused significant damage and the impact moved the Volkswagen. Witnesses, one of whom identified Leary as the driver, also said the occupants of the Honda got out to look at the damage, got back in and drove away.


A witness also said that Leary’s son Patrick was in the restaurant’s bar the night after the crash and stated that neither he nor his father answered the door for a police officer who came to his father’s Church Street house shortly after the crash.


Summary plea


Leary pleaded guilty to a summary offense and paid $407 in fines.


The board hired attorney Jarrett Ferentino at a cost of $195 an hour to investigate the circumstances of the crash.


Ferentino Wednesday said the amendments were addressed in an resolution by the board during an executive session at a prior meeting.


He said the board’s executive committee is authorized to transact any business between meetings and is required to notify the board in writing at the next scheduled meeting.

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