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Officials shows copies of bills paid for work

November 03, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Chambersburg School Board member Robert Helman on Wednesday produced three bills and a copy of a canceled check indicating that his family farm had paid for work done at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center.

At the Thursday, Oct. 27, meeting of the career center's Joint Operating Committee, Marlin Wagner of Chambersburg produced copies of three bills totaling $1,219.92 he said he received anonymously.

Wagner said the three bills were not among the six the center had turned over after he and Carl Barton of the Chambersburg Area Taxpayers' Association filed a Pennsylvania Right to Know request for all unpaid vouchers from committee members.

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Wagner said Wednesday he received the three copies after newspaper articles appeared about the six turned over as a result of the request.

Helman, the operating committee's treasurer, on Wednesday produced three documents from Rowe Spring Farms financial records that matched Wagner's copies. Two were originals in ink and the other appeared to be a photocopy.

Helman also had a copy of a canceled check for $1,219.72 written out to "FCCTC" and dated March 11, 2005. The check was signed by Helman's late father, Raymond, who died in June.

The largest bill, for $1,135.22, had a date stamp of March 19, 2001. The date stamp did not appear on the copy Wagner had and neither of the other two bills were dated.

All three bore Raymond Helman's name, with the name Bob Helman also written on one.

Helman said bills for the family farm were paid by his late mother and now by his brother, Wayne.

"To put it bluntly, I make the money and they spend it," he said. "He and I were employees (at the farm) until Dad's death," Helman said of he and his brother's business relationship.

To make up the 20-cent discrepancy, Helman showed a photocopy of a check for that amount from his father's estate, signed by his brother and dated Oct. 31.

Following the Oct. 6 request by Wagner and Barton for unpaid bills, Helman paid the school $584.93 on Oct. 13 to cover them. Two of the bills were his, while the others were for work done on vehicles of his father and sons.

Helman said last week he either was not made aware of the bills, or had forgotten about them.

The period when the bills were generated, 1999 to 2004, included three drought years and choices might have been made on which to pay first, Helman said.

"That causes hardships on all farmers and sometimes there's a limit on how thin you can spread the butter," he said.

"If he paid them in March, why didn't he pay the other six then," Wagner said Wednesday.

Wagner said he thinks Helman should not be the committee treasurer "if he can't make sure his own bills are paid."

"It's beyond political. It's about accountability and integrity within the district," Wagner said of the reason he pursued the issue of the unpaid bills.

Helman is running a write-in campaign in Tuesday's election for another term on the school board representing Region One. Paul Ambrose won both the Republican and Democratic primaries in May.

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