Questions arise over payment for leadership retreat

September 14, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A resident of the Chambersburg Area School District raised questions about the cost of a leadership retreat to Gettysburg, Pa., in July, but the district had already paid for expenses originally underwritten by an architectural firm.

"I found that the district taxpayers did not directly pay for the Gettysburg tour buses or the Gettysburg hotel rooms or the dinners at the Dobbin House," Carl Barton told the board. "The bad news is the district architectural firm, Crabtree Rohrbaugh & Associates, paid the $5,679 cost of these items."

Those figures were provided Barton by Rick Vensel, the district's business manager, and showed the district paid $11,549.82 for the retreat for a total of $17,229.43.

During an executive session, however, Vensel said the district ended up paying all the bills for the July 23-27 leadership retreat, two days of which were spent in Gettysburg.


Vensel said he was directed by Superintendent Joseph Padasak to do so sometime after Aug. 28, the date he provided Barton the figures.

"That's the information I had at the time," Vensel said.

More than 50 district officials participated in the retreat, according to district records.

The Mechanicsburg, Pa., architectural firm, Vensel said, was instead planning to make a donation to the Chambersburg Area School District Foundation.

Although the school district paid the retreat bills, no district official had informed Barton since he requested the figures.

Barton earlier told the board that the district should have a policy "requiring all vendor and potential vendor donations to be deposited in the general account" of the district. He also suggested the district adopt a policy prohibiting district employees from accepting alcoholic beverages from vendors.

Having companies doing business with the district sponsor hospitality rooms, dinners and tours "is inappropriate ... at the least it gives the appearance of a conflict of interest," Barton said.

Barton said the decision by the district to pay the bills "removes the cloud of the administrative process."

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