Residents raise questions over use of credit card
A heated exchange between local residents and the Jim Thorpe Area School district over a credit card appears to be steeped in a misunderstanding.
During Monday evening’s board of education meeting, two speakers questioned the board members, Superintendent Brian Gasper and solicitor Gregory Mousseau about a credit card payment found within the district’s bills.
Local residents Paul Montemuro and Cindy Henning had filed Right to Know requests with the school district, looking for information in regard to a “Jim Thorpe Area School District Capitol One credit card.”
Montemuro’s request was denied. He later appealed the decision, and according to Montemuro, a hearing officer rendered an opinion that he had a right to the information. Mousseau said the board still maintained a right to appeal that decision.
“It says there isn’t a Capitol One credit card in the school district’s name. But here, (board member) Mr. (Wilmer) Redline, he asked in the April 2018 minutes, he asked also about the Capitol One, he wants the receipts on the credit card. So, one thing says that we don’t have a district credit card. So, my question is, do we or don’t we have a district credit card with Capitol One?” Montemuro asked the board members.
Mousseau advised the board against commenting on the matter because the matter was in litigation.
Mousseau said the school district has responded to the Right to Know request, and it is going through the appeals process.
In a letter to the district dated Aug. 15, Henning said that she found no record of litigation in regard to the matter in the Carbon County Court system. Mousseau said that the appeal is currently being dealt with at the level of the Open Records Office. After a decision is rendered — with the appeal being granted or denied — action may be taken with the court system.
Henning followed Montemuro during the public comment portion of the school board meeting.
“I guess I’m not understanding why you can’t answer if there’s a district credit card or there isn’t a district credit card. Is that a hard thing?” she said.
Mousseau asked whose name the card was under, and Henning responded by saying that was the very information they wanted from the board.
On Thursday, Mousseau said that is the very foundation of the issue with the Right to Know requests — Montemuro and Henning are not asking for the correct information. In certain circumstances, the district is obliged to deny a request for being either too broad, or in this case, too specific.
As there is no “Jim Thorpe School District” credit card, the board cannot supply billing information for it, Mousseau said.
“That’s all it was. The district is going to follow the Right to Know law, and the Right to Know law is very specific,” Mousseau said.
And as that the matter is currently being addressed in litigation, it was not within the board’s interests to provide any information on the matter.
As for the card in question, Mousseau said the matter of the bill payments is perfectly legal and within the rights of the district. The card was taken out under the name of a district employee.
Before stepping down, Henning also asked why her request was denied.
“Just for the record, your request was not denied,” Gasper said to Henning. “We requested an extension.”
Gasper said that Henning’s request will be addressed within the time frame of the extension, which according to her letter to the board, requires action by Sept. 5.