Fired and pleaded guilty to theft; superintendent disciplined
HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Auditor General Jack Wagner said today that a special investigation of Dallas School District in Luzerne County found that a former athletic director misappropriated school district checks over a six-year period, totaling $55,829.98, and used the funds for his personal benefit. John Wolensky, a former athletic director, coach, and guidance counselor, diverted a total of 231 checks from multiple sources into a private checking account under his control and also pocketed $4,869 from the school district's athletic fund that was supposed to be distributed in cash to student-athletes for meal money on trips.
Wagner's investigators also determined that Dallas School District Superintendent Frank Galicki, who was the high school principal at the time, was aware of a related scheme by Wolensky, although he did not personally benefit from it.
Wolensky was suspended on Feb. 2, 2008 after school district officials discovered the theft. He made a retirement request on Nov. 22 2008, but was terminated by the district on March 2, 2009, after being arrested and charged with theft by unlawful taking by the Dallas Township Police Department based on information received from Wagner's investigators. He pleaded guilty in Luzerne County Common Pleas Court on Feb. 25, 2009, and was sentenced to 24 months probation, to perform 100 hours of community service, and to make restitution to the school district in the amount of $24,863, which he paid at the time of sentencing. The criminal charges were based on some, but not all, of the incidents of theft discovered in Wagner's investigation.
"A public school employee should not use a position of authority for personal gain, especially at the expense of students," Wagner said. "The school district should implement tighter controls over school funds to prevent a similar incident from happening again."
Wagner's Office of Special Investigations initiated the investigation after receiving allegations that various check fraud schemes were being used to misappropriate funds from several accounts at Dallas School District.
Investigators found that Wolensky, in his position as athletic director, came into possession of numerous checks drawn on several school-related accounts and made payable to others, as well as checks by private citizens and organizations made payable to the school district. Wolensky deposited the checks – 231 in all – under forged endorsements into the checking account of the Wyoming Valley Baseball League, a private organization for which he served as treasurer. Wolensky had sole authority to sign checks from the baseball league account, and he used that authority to draw checks on the account for his personal benefit, including one check for $5,800 that he used to pay for a vacation to Key West, Florida.
Wagner's investigators also determined that Frank Galicki, who was the high school principal at the time but is currently the district's superintendent, knowingly approved a scheme devised by Wolensky to overcharge for the Practice Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) and to use the overcharges to subsidize other school-related organizations, including $15,200 for the Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO). Between 1997 and 2007, overcharges resulting from this scheme totaling $52,245.50 were realized in the High School Testing Account. Investigators found that Galicki failed to exercise proper control over the High School Testing Account by allowing the scheme to continue and by failing to disclose it to the school board, the test takers, and their parents.
After reviewing a draft copy of the report, the school board instituted disciplinary proceedings against Galicki. On Aug. 24, 2010, a majority of the board voted to deny Galicki any increase in salary for the 2010-11 school year and to order Galicki to disassociate himself completely from the Wyoming Valley Baseball League. Two members of the board did not concur in the discipline imposed, stating that they have no confidence in Galicki's ability to perform satisfactorily the duties of his office and that they believed that he should be discharged at the conclusion of the present school year.
Investigators found that Wolensky misappropriated the overcharge money from the High School Testing Account by causing legitimate-appearing checks to be drawn on the account. He would then deposit these checks under forged endorsements into the Wyoming Valley Baseball League checking account that he controlled. Investigators also found that Wolensky intercepted other checks payable to the school district and school district checks payable to others and deposited the stolen checks under forged endorsements into the baseball league account. Wolensky then would draw checks from the baseball league account for his personal benefit.
Wagner's report recommended that the school board should seek to recoup money stolen by Wolensky above and beyond the amount of his criminal restitution, a difference of over $35,000. In addition to the recommendation to discipline Galicki, the report made further recommendations to prevent such an incident from occurring again, including:
- Develop adequate controls for student activity funds and money from the athletic fund, including a periodic review of transactions and balances,
- Require two or more people to sign checks for student activity fund payments, and
- Require a member of the faculty or administration to be personally accountable for each school fund and require the person accountable to submit a financial statement for each school fund to the school board at least quarterly.
Wagner referred his findings to the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the District Attorney of Luzerne County, the Dallas Township Police Department, and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for their review and whatever further action they may deem appropriate.
In its written response included at the end of the report, the school board thanked Wagner for his investigation and committed itself to implementing his recommendations. "I will follow up at the appropriate time to ensure that the district can demonstrate that it is handling taxpayer funds prudently and properly," said Wagner.
Auditor General Jack Wagner is responsible for ensuring that all state money is spent legally and properly. He is the commonwealth's elected independent fiscal watchdog, conducting financial audits, performance audits and special investigations. The Department of the Auditor General conducts more than 5,000 audits per year. To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the department's website at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General