Son of School Board member among those paid from five-figure account.

Last updated: April 18. 2013 11:46PM - 5115 Views
By - mguydish@civitasmedia.com - (570) 991-6112

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KINGSTON — The information related to Wyoming Valley West School District that recently was turned over to the IRS for possible investigation centered on student activities funds at the middle school, sources say.

The funds are tracked by the business office through a central checking account, and a Times Leader review of those records shows that the son of a school board member has received money from those funds.

The board member, former middle school teacher Tom Pieczynski, insisted the deal was legal and that he had nothing to do with it, because the money is raised and spent by the student government with no input or vote from the School Board.

Middle School Principal Deborah Troy confirmed the students decide how to spend the group’s money, and solicitor Michael Hudacek agreed with Pieczynski’s contention that the payments to his son for landscaping services were not a legal conflict of interest.

The student activities fund ledgers for both the high school and the middle school are public record and were provided upon request. They are included in annual, state-mandated audits conducted by an outside firm.

If the Internal Revenue Service is investigating — Superintendent Chuck Suppon has stressed several times that neither he nor administrators he talked to have been contacted by any federal agents — it is more likely interested in what happens to student activity cash before it reaches the central office.

Suppon and Business Manager Joe Rodriguez conceded central office records track student activities money only after it receives records or revenue.

The money from various student groups is placed into a single bank account and checks are written as needed, with the office tracking and reconciling account activity, Rodriguez said. But the district relies on students and staff who run fundraisers or other events to accurately track cash at those events, and makes no attempt to ensure there is a full accounting of money brought in.

The problem can arise when cash payments are made at an event and are not run through the central account.

For example, Suppon confirmed that Kingston police work as guards at some events, including middle school dances.

But the records reviewed by The Times Leader show no payments to police, suggesting the payments are made in cash at the event. Suppon said he does not know if that is true because he was not at the events.

Student activities funds — which are not part of the district’s general fund — are minuscule compared to the district’s total budget of $63 million. But the money can still add up. According to monthly spreadsheets provided by the district, the combined student activities fund checking account had total deposits of nearly $90,000 and expenditures of nearly $67,000 in 2011-12.

The records show Tom Pieczynski Jr. received two checks in 2011-12 totaling $1,107. His father said he and his son run a landscaping business, but that his son has his own client list and was hired to work on the school grounds by the student government, usually twice a year, for several years. “I don’t see any of that money,” Pieczynski Sr. said.

News of IRS interest in the district came from Larksville Police Chief John Edwards on Wednesday.

Police had cited then-district custodian Robert Lushefski for two incidents of dumping personal trash into a district Dumpster at the State Street Elementary School in February. Lushefski pleaded guilty this month and the School Board fired him at the April 10 meeting, but Board President Gordon Dussinger said there was more involved than the Dumpster charges in the decision to terminate Lushefski.

The Times Leader sought additional records from the Larksville police, and Chief Edwards responded with a written statement saying no records could be provided because they had been turned over to the IRS Criminal Investigation Division for further investigation.

Suppon pointed out that even if records were given to the IRS, it would not necessarily mean an investigation was launched. The IRS would neither confirm or deny an investigation.

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