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Lehighton closing account due to check posted online

Lehighton Area School District is closing a general fund bank account with Mauch Chunk Trust Co. and opening a new one after board member David Bradley posted a check on a since deleted YouTube video, showing the district’s routing and bank account numbers.

The motion passed 5-2 with Bradley and Richard Beltz in opposition.

Business Administrator Ed Rarick said the recommendation to close the account in question and open a new one was made by the bank.

“It’s my understanding that the district had a similar incident several years ago before my arrival, and there was fraudulent checks generated out of California based on the information that was derived from the internet,” Rarick said. “So although it is rather cumbersome for the business office to create a transition like this from one account to another, I think it’s in the best interest of the district to protect our property.”

The district made out the check, shown in the since deleted video, to Bradley for $11.50 as a reimbursement after he won a Pennsylvania Office of Open Records appeal challenging how much the district could charge him for copies of information sought in a Right To Know request.

Bradley requested all records evidencing application of the district’s Facilities and Workplace Safety policy in 2020, which yielded 52 pages of results. The OOR, however, determined he could only be charged for the pages that required the district to print them out, so it could redact protected information.

During Lehighton’s board meeting last week, Bradley said numerous individuals receive checks from the district and routing information for any bank is normally readily searchable online.

“This is the second time this bank has recommended changing accounts due to fear,” Bradley said. “It’s not private information. There is nothing there that puts you at risk for fraudulent activity. I think it’s time to change banks.”

Board member Barbara Bowes, who voted to close the account and open a new one, said posting a video showing the check was “foolish.”

The district, Rarick said, is tracking the account daily along with the bank.

“We do have a lot of oddities because as a district you can get large deposits from the state, and you also have some large withdrawals with payroll and things like that,” he added.

Bradley said he was also concerned that documentation will be lost if the account is closed.

Rarick said the district keeps a hard copy record of every transaction, information that is also electronically stored with the banking institution.

“I’m not sure how there would be a loss of information,” Rarick said.

In 2018, Lehighton dealt with a fraud situation when people from around the country were creating what looked like district payroll checks and taking them to check cashing places. The scheme was uncovered and the district was made whole, according to district officials.