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More charges leveled at Pa. school board member

October 28, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - More charges of unpaid bills at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center were leveled against Chambersburg School Board member Robert Helman at Thursday night's meeting of the center's Joint Operating Committee.

On Monday, Chambersburg Area Taxpayers' Association President Carl Barton and Marlin Wagner of Chambersburg said they had asked the center through a Pennsylvania Right to Know request for all unpaid bills for any committee members. Six bills under the names Bob Helman or Helman totaling $584.93 were turned over to them.

"Have we gotten all the vouchers then?" Wagner asked James Duffey, the center's director.

"To the best of my knowledge, yes," Duffey said.

Wagner then said he had three more totaling approximately $1,200. In this case, the copies of the vouchers were undated and two had the name of Robert Helman's late father, Raymond, and one had the name of both Raymond and Bob Helman.

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The largest bill, for $1,135.22, did not specify what type of machinery was serviced. The second was for a Pontiac for $47.70, and the third for a 1986 Chevrolet Caprice for $37.

"I got them anonymously," Wagner said, declining to elaborate.

Wagner said he also received copies of center audits for seven years, but had only received a management memorandum for a 2003 audit, which stated there were $3,302 in unpaid bills. Wagner asked for any accompanying memoranda for the other six audits.

"It certainly must be asked, as treasurer for eight years, what has he done to correct this?" Wagner said of Helman.

"The shop fund has nothing to do with what I do as treasurer," Helman said after the meeting. "I don't know anything about them," he said of the three new vouchers.

On Monday, Helman said two of the six unpaid bills were for work done by center students on a truck and car owned by his father. Two others were for work done on his sons' vehicles and two, totaling about $74, were his. Helman paid the bills on Oct. 13, Duffey said.

After Wagner spoke, the committee went into an executive session for a personnel matter. Several minutes later, Helman left the room until the regular meeting resumed.

The board took no action on any personnel issues and Helman then delivered his treasurer's report. After the meeting, Helman said he was willing to leave the room during the executive session, but stayed until he was directed to leave by solicitor Jan Sulcove.

"I'm trying to do what's right as far as this whole situation. I've done many, many things to save money in my 12 years than what we're talking about here," he said, referring to his time on the Chambersburg School Board.

While the committee was in executive session, a man asked Wagner why he and Barton went public and why Wagner had "a negative attitude."

"I'm negative when it comes to stealing the public's money, brother," Wagner said.

"I wasn't for Act 72 and that's what they're after me for," Helman said, referring to a school property tax relief plan passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly that he voted against. Most of the other 501 school districts in the state also voted down the plan, he said.

Helman is running a write-in campaign for another four-year term representing Region One. He lost the Republican primary in May to Paul Ambrose and withdrew from the Democratic primary after admitting he improperly circulated a nominating petition.

At the end of the meeting, Duffey unveiled a plaque honoring Helman's father, who served on the committee from 1967 to 1993.

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