School board

Dear editor:

Mr. Hufnagel’s contract stated “Superintendent agrees to perform the duties of the position in a competent and professional manner in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”; “The Superintendent may resign at any time provided he gives the Board at least 60 days written notice prior” His actions alone broke his contract and reduced it to scratch paper. Brandon is gone but the problem remains. I am disappointed in how our board handled the situation. They appear to not understand what they have done wrong and more importantly that they have violated trust with the citizens of Warren County.

Due to many rumors, I filed RTK requests to seek the truth. Right now there is a black cloud above our district. It is filled with mistrust. Our children deserve better, our county deserves better. I believe that we should be able to hold our heads high with integrity and honor and better oversight is needed.

Based on the information I received and simple phone calls I have made, it appears there was little due diligence. When I called Seneca Gaming Corporation, they advised that a basic part of their fraud protection is to require a patron to physically present the card and PHOTO ID with EVERY transaction. A review of his mileage reimbursement during his tenure showed a pattern of concern. His mileage reimbursements increased dramatically over time. One initial mileage reimbursement was reasonable, $241.20. However, his most recent reimbursement had soared to $1,092.91.

The contract stated “Superintendent will be entitled to reimbursement in the amount of up to $7,500 for reasonable moving expenses”, but “reasonable “was never defined. The IRS defines these expenses as being a direct result of moving a household. The expenses that our board allowed to be reimbursed are questionable but worse, I’m not sure that every member realizes that the district paid for propane, electric bills, rent and a housing deposit as part of a “moving a household”.

Mr. Hufnagel’s last regular paycheck was for Jan 28 Feb 5(resignation letter is dated February 4.) It included payment for unused sick and vacation time. Before taxes his check was $5708.65(He charged $5,875 at the casino.) Why were unused days paid for a broken contract? Our board had 2 executive sessions (Jan 25th/31st) after learning of the credit card usage. According to the WTO, Art Stewart said “When we met with Brandon to discuss this matter” It is logical to assume that they at least knew of his plan to resign as of the 25th or 31st. I feel we helped pay the restitution to ourselves. A resignation agreement that included refunding moving expenses, restitution for costs and not receiving unpaid sick/vacation days should’ve been made and voted on publicly. The board seemed more concerned with Brandon’s needs over the district’s.

Common sense says they had to discuss restitution, and a solution. Executive sessions are private discussions, but decisions must be made publicly. None of this was public and they hoped that it wouldn’t be. They also decided not to investigate; this was not put to a public board vote.

So we’re left with a board hiding indiscretions, decisions behind closed doors, and the citizens of Warren County footing the bill. Many people are angry over the moving expenses; I wonder how they feel about also paying for unused sick/vacation days? Our board needs a reminder of whose money they are spending and that the trust they had broken is going to be difficult to repair. This lack of transparency is truly a lack of respect for the citizens of Warren County and our children.

Nicole Peterson