Lehighton Area School Board voted 5-3 this week to settle a suit with former Superintendent James A. Kraky.

The district will pay an amount recommended by board solicitor William Schwab, but that figure is confidential until the agreement is accepted by Kraky.

On Jan. 14, 2013, Kraky filed a civil suit in Carbon County Court, claiming the district underpaid him for sick days he was due and owed after his employment ended.

Kraky alleges in the suit that he is owed an additional $14,539.50, and "any and all other relief this court deems warranted and just."

Directors Larry Stern, Stephen Holland, Wayne Wentz, Andrew Yenser, and board President Gloria Bowman voted in favor.

Directors Rocky Ahner, Hal Resh, and William J. Hill Jr., were opposed.

Director Thomas Zimmerman IV was absent.

Audit

In another matter, an audit performed by the state's Department of the Auditor General says the district was paying Kraky his full-time salary plus benefits for three months for consultant services it might not have received.

Kraky "did not attend any meetings involving personnel, ongoing contract negotiations, or building and grounds, and had no dealings with the district's daily operations," during that period, the audit says.

"From April 1, 2012 to July 1, 2012, when the board appointed a permanent superintendent, the agreement cost the district $46,490."

During this three-month period, the district paid the consultant $16,650 in wages and mileage to manage the district's daily operations, while paying the former superintendent $29,840 in full-time salary and benefits to act as a district adviser.

"These monies would have been better spent in the district's classrooms," the audit said.

Although his name isn't mentioned in the audit, the retired superintendent referenced is Kraky who lives in New Tripoli.Consultant hired

The audit says that not only did the district pay for services it didn't receive, it also violated the Public School Employees' Retirement System's regulations during that three-month period.

That's because the district continued to report Kraky's wages as a full-time employee, when he was working less than half-time, according to the audit.

The period covered by the audit was Jan. 29, 2010 to March 5, 2013.

On Feb. 27, 2012, the board entered into an agreement with Kraky that his last regular working day would be March 30, 2012.

At that meeting the board hired long-time Lehighton teacher and administrator Dr. Terence Maher as a consultant to manage the district in the transition following Kraky's retirement, beginning April 1.

The board said at that meeting that Maher would become acting superintendent on July 1, and Kraky's last date as an employee would be June 30.

A memorandum of understanding with Kraky stated that during that three-month period, Kraky would "remain as an employee with full benefits of the district and work from home to finish his duties with the district, including using all remaining vacation and personal days," the audit said.

It added that he should not be required to be physically present in the district during the period unless specifically requested by Maher, who was handling day-to-day affairs.

Maher was expected to work a maximum of 12 days per month while a consultant.

No transparency

The audit says the district's description Kraky's duties "suggest that he was working less than full-time and perhaps even less than part-time.

"However, the district continued to pay him as a full-time employee and continued to report his wages to the Public School Retirement System's as though he were still a full-time employee," the audit says.

Only employees who work five hours or more a day, five days a week or its equivalent, can be considered full-time under the retirement system's rules.

The board "failed to make its reasoning for this arrangement transparent to the public," according to the audit.

District response

The district said the Pennsylvania School Board Association was hired to conduct a superintendent search that could take months.

The board admits that, in hindsight, hiring a consultant "was unnecessary as a superintendent was found quicker than advised by the PSBA."

"The former superintendent fulfilled all his duties as required under his contract and state law and was accessible to the district via telephone, email, and when necessary in person for the last three months of his contract as he used up accrued vacation and personal days," the district said.

However, the audit said, "Such a shift in leadership should not require the district's taxpayers to pay two individuals for the same position.

"Furthermore, the district's taxpayers should not be expected to pay an employee a full-time salary for less than full-time work."

Kraky took 18 vacation days and two personal days during the that period, the audit said.

Report disputed

Last month, Ahner, who was board president at the time of Kraky's retirement, said, "When Mr. Kraky announced his retirement for June of 2012, the district hired PSBA as a consultant to do a search for a replacement for the superintendent. At that time Mr. Kraky had considerable vacation and personal days that he wished to take before leaving the district."

"PSBA advised us that it would be difficult to find an interim and should look for one as soon as possible. In March Dr. Maher, a former Lehighton administrator, was hired as a consultant to continue stability after Mr. Kraky left in June."

Kraky signed all documents required by the Pa. Department of Education during the time he worked at home and also officiated over graduation in June, Ahner said.

"Through the PSBA search, an internal candidate was hired at an approximate savings of $17,000 to the district. If there were an extra cost to the district, it would have been in the hiring of the consultant at the cost of $16,500, not the combined cost of both, making this a break even plus situation for the district," Ahner said.

"During this time, the district always had the best interests of the students, employees and taxpayers of Lehighton Area School District at heart, while the transition of a superintendent occurred."

The auditor for the state got its figure by combining Kraky's salary and benefits totaling $29,840 and the part-time consultant's fee of $16,500, which actually adds up to $46,340.